• Friday , 3 February 2023

Interior Health rejects RDCO biosolids application plan for Brenda Mines

The regional district’s plan to disperse biosolids material from the Westside Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant onto Peachland’s watershed area at Brenda Mines will not proceed as they had hoped. On April 25, in a letter to district staff, Interior Health stated they have advised Regional District of Central Okanagan (RDCO) not to proceed with the land application plan, citing concerns about the safety of Peachland’s water supply.

Last November RDCO manager of environmental services Peter Rotheisler told Peachland council the multi-million dollar water treatment plant already on site at Brenda Mines offers unique environmental control in that it treats water from the site before it heads into Trepanier Creek, thus protecting Peachland’s drinking water source from any contamination.

However, according to their letter to district staff, Interior Health officials are less than confident that the treatment plant would be sufficient to protect Peachland’s watershed.

“Interior Health has reviewed the land application plan for applying Class B biosolids to [the] Brenda Mines site,” Interior Health environmental health officer Anita Ely wrote. “The attached letter has been sent to the Regional District of Central Okanagan directing not to proceed with the land application plan, citing potential risks to drinking water downstream from the site.”

Ely went on to say that Interior Health has determined that the treatment and management of biosolids deposited at the Brenda Mines site cannot adequately ensure that the drinking water downstream is protected if an extreme weather event occurs.

“The on-site treatment and management of biosolids are not designed to treat or eliminate disease causing micro-organisms from entering the drinking water. Therefore, water flowing away from the site and feeding into the area drinking water sources may be at risk of being contaminated,” Ely said.

In an April 24 letter to the RDCO, Interior Health medical health officer Robert A. Parker further specified, “In addition, Brenda Mines on-site treatment, operator training, monitoring, regulatory oversight, governance and incident response are not designed for drinking water treatment and elimination of pathogen loading of water, if ideal biosolids application conditions are not met. Therefore there is insufficient means to mitigate the risk of pathogen contamination of released water.”

Back in November, council passed a resolution offering provisional support for the project subject to the following conditions:

  • Confirmation from Interior Health that they have no concerns with the proposal;
  • That it is undertaken on a one-year trial basis; and
  • That a local public consultation process takes place prior to implementation.

Rotheisler said Interior Health advised they would not consider the proposal until after a formal application to the province had been submitted, which is why on March 25 he said the RDCO had moved forward with an application to the province to spread biosolids materials from the Westside Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant onto Peachland’s watershed area at Brenda Mines, despite Peachland council’s expressed request that they not proceed before conducting a local public consultation process and ensuring Interior Health has no concerns about the project’s impact on the safety of Peachland’s water supply.

An application to the province is necessary to proceed because the land application of biosolids is regulated by the provincial government under the organic matter recycling regulation, rather than by municipal or regional governments.

Due to the first condition not being met, Mayor Keith Fielding said he made it clear to the regional district board that Peachland no longer supports the project.

“I was really just really delighted to see that Interior Health were quite unequivocal in their response,” Mayor Fielding said.

Without Interior Health and district support, the RDCO will now need to explore other options for disposing of the biosolids material. However, finding an affordable and appropriate means of dealing with biosolids from the wastewater plant has proven challenging for the regional district.

“It is going to go back to the Westside wastewater treatment service select committee, of which we have several members,” director of operations Joe Mitchell said in his presentation to the committee of the whole last Tuesday. “We don’t know exactly what is going to happen as of yet but the project is not going ahead.”

“I would have to say that it is a huge relief that biosolids are not going to be deposited at the Brenda Mines area. As I said before, it was an ill conceived idea at the start,” Councillor Cindy Fortin said.

“I’m glad to see this is not going ahead,” Councillor Vern Moberg said. “I think everybody should be well expectant that no matter how many representatives we have on the committee, that we’re going to get an increase in trucking fees to get rid of it.”

Material from the Westside Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant is currently hauled to a location near Clinton, B.C. for disposal, but the RDCO says it is very expensive to transport the waste material out of the region.

Rotheisler told district council the initial plan was to move forward with using multiple sites within Westbank First Nation forest land but that plan was abruptly cancelled last summer.

Rotheisler told the committee of the whole that the Westbank First Nation did not support the spreading of biosolids in the community forest because it impacted their ability to gather berries on the site.

Joanne Layh
Peachland View

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