Composting, mining, and water protection

On Tuesday October 26 members of the Peachland Watershed Protection Alliance (PWPA) were the guests of Glencore Canada Corp. and Brenda Renewables Inc. (BRI) for a tour of the former mine site and proposed location of a composting facility near Peachland.

When PWPA heard the announcement by BRI that it was proposing an industrial-scale Class A composting facility at the old mine site, we requested a tour of the area to get a better understanding of how this could impact our watershed – the source of our drinking water. 

Thirteen PWPA members came out on a seasonably spooky foggy day to learn more about industrial composting, and to see the “fabled” Brenda Mine site, which has been closed for about 30 years. On the tour, we were reminded BRI is not building a biosolids treatment plant, although biosolids will be a component of the feedstock for the final compost product.

BRI outlined their plans and timeline and detailed the vision for the development of their composting business at the Brenda Mines site. Local and national Glencore reps gave us the details on the current operations at the site, and the technology that ensures that toxic mine waste does not enter the drinking water supply or the fish-bearing creeks in the watershed and Lake Okanagan. 

In essence the entire Glencore portion of the site is one big water treatment plant, which was put in place largely as a result of the community activism of Peachlanders Joe and Jessica Klein, Peter Chattaway, Lee Humphries and other local environmentalists who demanded the installation of a water treatment plant to protect our water from mine waste, in the 90s before the mine was shuttered. Only three other closed mines in all of B.C. enjoy this kind of technology.

Thank you to the team from Brenda Renewables, and representatives from Glencore for their time, information, and for sharing their plans for the composting initiative and look forward to continuing the dialog.

PWPA is still reviewing the merit of this project against possible environmental impacts. If the project proceeds, it sets a precedent for future benign initiatives in this watershed, all of which are permitted by the province without need for our community or local government approval.  

However, will all future activities enjoy long term success, maintain ecological integrity and fulfill their original promises? We know how easily today’s promises can be broken by industries that use our watershed. We are still waiting for the sail boats and recreation opportunities on the tailings pond promised to Peachland residents by original mine owners, Noranda, in 1967. 

One closing thought; the bigger question is why are these kinds of industrial proposals just “business as usual” for rural multi-use watersheds? Do you think Vancouver and Victoria would tolerate having a composting facility on their decommissioned open-pit mine sites in their community drinking watersheds?

Alex Morrison, communications chair
Peachland Watershed Protection Alliance 

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