Residents in the Columbia Valley are worried a dump is being built on their doorstep, and the provincial government has stepped in. The Ministry of Environment has conducted an inspection of a property at 810 Iverson Road, resulting in an advisory for non-compliance with the Environmental Management Act and the Organic Matter Recycling Regulation (OMRR).”
“Fraser Valley Renewables must meet the outlined requirements and they have voluntarily suspended work at this time,” said Chilliwack-Kent MLA Kelli Paddon, who visited the site after fielding several phone calls and emails from upset residents.
People living near the farm on Iverson Road say large trucks have been coming to the property for the last seven months, sometimes up to 20 a day, delivering load after load of waste material.
The farm owner, Bruce Vander Wyk, says it’s organic waste (yard/household, agricultural and paper) which is being processed into compost to improve the yield of his land.
But neighbours who’ve watched around 1,500 truck loads arrive since March suggest there’s more afoot.
Pictures taken from an adjacent property appear to show non-organic material.
“This is not class A compost as it is full of glass, plastics, wood, ceramic tiles, drywall,” Cathryn Parcher wrote in a Facebook discussion.
Vander Wyk’s neighbours say the property stinks, with Parcher describing the smell as “horrendous.”
Heavy truck traffic and resulting air pollution is an issue too, but the biggest problem is the health of the area’s aquifer.
“There is no non-porous material laid on the ground to stop the leaching of material into the ground, and there is no building over top to prevent the rain from making more leach into the ground,” Parcher noted.
“It’s only a matter of time and there will be issues with our aquifer that this community relies upon for its domestic drinking water,” said Len Shingler, another concerned resident, who described that aquifer as very fragile.
Vander Wyk wrote a letter to Columbia Valley residents explaining his side, which includes a partnership with Abbotsford-based Fraser Valley Renewables. He said the material arriving at his property is processed before it arrives following provincial government guidelines.
“Throughout the process the material is digitally monitored for temperature and other factors to ensure regulatory standards are met from start to finish,” he wrote. “Before the process is considered complete the product must meet rigorous testing requirements including heavy metals, fecal coliforms and nutrient values. This testing is performed by an independent laboratory and all results of the testing and process monitoring are submitted and available to the Ministry of Environment and other regulatory agencies.”
Vander Wyk also said the Agricultural Land Reserve Use Regulation (3.2.27(2)) allows him to bring in compost to be stockpiled “until I am ready to work the land.”
An information package prepared by Fraser Valley Renewables, uploaded by Vander Wyk to ‘The View in the Columbia Valley’ Facebook page says the material that is arriving at the property now is ‘in-process compost,’ meaning it will receive another ‘screening’ before it can be applied to farmland.
That same package explains that documents have been submitted to the BC Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy (BCENV) that will allow for the construction “of impermeable surfaces and weather proof structures to enclose the ‘material handling’ process from the environment,” and that will mitigate the odour issue.
“We would like to further note that the proposed operational capacity has been significantly reduced from original plans in consideration of the community and its residents,” the document adds.
Shingler said the work is being presented as a short-term issue, but he’s not buying Vander Wyk’s explanation. He believes the farmer is trying to cash in on lucrative tipping fees by accepting garbage on his property.
He views the construction of a processing facility as a huge red flag, asking why anyone would do that if it were a short-term deal.
“Definitely sounds like a long-term plan to me and probably would be the same load of crap that was fed to folks of Cache Creek as they were slowly becoming the garbage dump for the Lower Mainland,” he said.
Taryn Dixon, FVRD director for Area H, which includes the Columbia Valley, says the Iverson Road activities are very concerning.
“We are asking the province to protect our aquifer and Cultus Lake,” she said. “Compost B is being applied directly over top of our aquifer which is the source of our drinking water. When reading the province’s Organic Matter Recycling Regulation it does state that Compost B must not be applied in a watershed used as a permitted water supply.
“We believe that since much of the drinking water in Columbia Valley comes from this aquifer it must be protected.”
Dixon said Cultus Lake could also suffer, with the aquifer draining into it.
“Cultus Lake houses two genetically unique species, Cultus Sockeye and Cultus Pygmy Sculpin,” she noted “This is a popular destination for visitors from all over and ensuring it remains healthy is a must.”