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City of Kamloops reaches agreement at environmental justice forum

May 12, 2015 - 2:27 PM

KAMLOOPS – On May 6, the City of Kamloops participated in a Community Environmental Justice Forum. The forum was held as a result of a sanitary discharge incident that occurred at the O’Connor lift station located in the Dallas area in September 2014. 

As a result of an incorrect valve adjustment, the sanitary line to the lift station backed up resulting in sewage discharge to nearby ditches and the South Thompson River. The valve adjustment should have been caught and responded to, but was not. As a result, approximately 4,100 cubic metres of effluent (approximately two Olympic-sized swimming pools) emptied into a nearby creek and ultimately the river. 

When the discharge was discovered, the Ministry of Environment was notified and clean up was undertaken. During this clean up, city staff erroneously dumped some of the contaminated materials it collected into a storm drain. These materials went through the storm system and eventually into the South Thompson River. The City of Kamloops accepts full responsibility and deeply regrets this incident occurred.
At the conclusion of the Ministry of Environment investigation, the city agreed that participation in a community environmental justice forum was the best resolution method, intent on being forthright and transparent in addressing the incident. Participants in the meeting included representatives from the City of Kamloops, Tk’emlups te Secwepemc, Conservation Officer Service, Interior Health Authority and Kamloops Fly Fishing Association. 

As a result of the forum, the city will contribute $20,000 towards rehabilitation work on Tranquille River to improve fish habitat. This work involves a partnership between the Kamloops & District Fish and Game Association, Tk’emlups te Secwepemc and Department of Fisheries and Oceans. Additionally, the city will enhance the alarm systems at all sewer locations (at an estimated cost of $8,000) to prevent future incidents and will conduct an annual review with Interior Health and Tk’emlups te Secwepemc of its protocols in relation to spill notifications to partner agencies.
In addition, the city has already taken a number of steps to prevent similar incidents from occurring in future, including:
- disciplinary action and staff training
- increased monitoring at all sewer stations
- increased signage and GIS mapping
- verification procedures for disposing of waste materials
- ensuring all contaminated materials are disposed of at the Kamloops Sewage Treatment Centre
The City of Kamloops takes this incident extremely seriously and will vigilantly review its protocols with staff and contractors to ensure appropriate procedures are followed. 
The City of Kamloops would like to thank the facilitator from the Ministry of Environment who conducted the forum and the community members who participated. Their involvement and insight were instrumental in developing the resolution for this incident.
About a community environmental justice forum
A community environmental justice forum utilizes the principles of restorative justice and brings a responsible party, and parties involved or affected by an incident, together with trained facilitators to discuss the incident and its effects. A successful community environmental justice forum results in an agreement by the parties on how to resolve the situation.

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2015
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