Concern about biosolids in West Kelowna’s watershed

A proposal to dump biosolids from the Westside treatment plant in West Kelowna's watershed is meeting some opposition.

Sign from the current location where waste material from the Westside Wastewater Treatment Plant is being spread

West Kelowna Mayor Doug Findlater is concerned about a proposal to dump biosolids from the Westside Wastewater Treatment Plant into the municipality’s watershed.

The project is run by Sylvis Environmental Services Inc., which has been spreading the material in the Bob’s Lake pit, off the Okanagan Connector of the Coquihalla Highway, near Paradise  and Island Lakes.

Instead, it is proposing to spread it in part of the Westbank First Nation’s community forest on Mount Swite, in the Bear Creek area, as a fertilizer to increase growth rates and productivity in an area to be re-forested.

Findlater expressed his concern about the project at Tuesday’s regular meeting of the Okanagan Basin Water Board and said he would like feedback on the proposal from members of the Okanagan Water Stewardship Council, which acts as a technical advisory committee to the OBWB.

Technical reports on the process report biosolids have been used as an organic fertilizer for forest productivity in the Pacific Northwest for more than 40 years without any instance of forest fertilization causing detrimental effect to soil, plant or water systems through application at agronomic rates in B.C.

“The impacts of these applications have been carefully studied and are deemed to be purely beneficial from both ecological and fertilization perspectives,” according to a letter from Sylvis received by the regional district about the proposal in early April.

However, Findlater noted it’s the company selling the process that’s doing the reporting.

OBWB water stewardship director Nelson Jatel noted he expects there will be some questions about the endocrine disruptor content in the material as well.

Director Tom Siddon agreed he felt there should be more information available about the risks associated with disposing of biosolids.

The Sylvis letter said all biosolids applications will be a minimum of 30 metres from water.

Specifically, it said two sites are being considered, one that is 1,100 hectares and is up on the Pennask summit, off the Connector, and the other 14 kilometres up the Bear Lake Forest Service Road, within an area that is 10,000 hectares in total.

The WFN chief and council have approved the application on its community forest licence lands said the letter.

The letter reported there is a requirement that above-ground foods not be picked from the area for human consumption for 18 months after application, and no below-ground tubers and roots for 38 months after application.

Signs would be posted to warn people about that.

jsteeves@kelownacapnews.com