Residents of the rural B.C. community of Turtle Valley, in the Shuswap near Salmon Arm, are seeking official testing of the biosolids material that will be applied at the Turtle Valley Bison Ranch, hoping the results will fuel support of their opposition to the use of the substance.
Since an initial meeting between Turtle Valley residents and Arrow Transportation, the company planning to apply a mixture of processed sewage waste, wood chippings and sand known as biosolids to land at the bison ranch, some members of the community have made their opposition well heard.
Concerns from the community surround the potential for contamination of soil, water and crops in the area, fueled by studies which show the potential for chemicals, pharmeceuticals and metal residue being present in biosolids. The proposed area where the biosolids will be applied is near a steep hillside that overlooks Chum Lake and nearby Chum Creek, important habitats which connect with the Shuswap Watershed.
“Both are fish bearing, and Chum Creek also is a spawning area. Apparently the waste will be dumped to within 100 yards of the lake and creek and the dumping could start as early as this upcoming week,” says Jack Batula, an avid angler in the area in an email to the Observer. “The BC government has given their okay to the project and will not intervene. So the residents are looking for help from the public, fish and wildlife groups, anyone else that can help them.”
For the residents opposed to the plan, protecting the watershed and food chain are among their biggest concerns.
“The reason we live here is it’s a pristine valley. The painted turtle is on the endangered species list, we have rivers and creeks that eventually flow into Shuswap Lake,” said Connie Seaward, spokesperson for the community group opposing the biosolids plan. “And now we have these chemicals, which they say are only present in small amounts, but they are being applied to farmland that is intended for a food chain.”
Some in the community are now pushing for tests to be done and presented to the community on the biosolids mixture that will be applied in Turtle Valley, so it can be made public exactly what will be going into the ground. The two main obstacles standing in their way are the cost of the testing and limited timeframe to have them done.
“We do have just over 700$ so far that was going to be for signage, but if everyone agrees we can use it towards testing and fundraising again for signs,” Seaward says in an email to the Observer. “Our only concern at this point is timeframe, the test results would be great to have back and distributed to everyone before the trucks plan on trying to haul… Testing will take 7 to 10 business days.”