April 16, 2015 - 4:33 PM
WEST KELOWNA - The chiefs of the five native bands occupying Christy Clark’s office in West Kelowna say only an agreement with the province will end their protest.
“We’re prepared to stay as long as it takes to come to some kind of the agreement with the province,” Chief Aaron Sam of the Upper Nicola band says. “We’re definitely not there yet.”
The five chiefs and their supporters began their occupation of Clark’s office on Dobbin Rd. yesterday afternoon, April 15.
They spent today picketing with protest signs in front of the office and loading in bedding and food under the watchful eye of RCMP officers.
Sam says meetings with environment minister Mary Polak had ended without the promise of a moratorium on the practice of spreading sewage sludge on land owned by private companies, including BioCentral which has operations in the Nicola Valley outside Merritt.
Sewage sludge is collected at Westside regional waste water treatment plant on behalf of West Kelowna, Peachland, portions of the Central Okanagan Regional District on the westside of Okanagan Lake and Westbank First Nations reserves.
The Central Okanagan Regional District contracted with BioCentral to dispose of approximately 100 tonnes of sludge there each week but in the face of ongoing protests in the Nicola Valley, has since diverted it to a previous contractor near Clinton, B.C.
Protest continues outside premier's constituency office in West Kelowna.
(JOHN MCDONALD /InfoTel Multimedia)
Sam says the protest at Clark’s office is not aimed at BioCentral itself, but the government legislation that allows the disposal of what they consider to be toxic waste on their traditional lands.
“The government has a constitutional requirement to consult with us when it affects aboriginal title and rights and specifically, on our lands, so we’re focused on the Nicola Valley,” he says.
In a prepared statement from public relations consultant Elisha McCallum, BioCentral said it has so far been turned down by both Nicola Valley residents and First Nations to discuss their concerns.
“The company remains open to having these conversations and look forward to hearing from them in the future. “BioCentral has all of the required permits, licenses and permissions in place from the ministry of environment and the Thompson North Regional District in order to operate in the Sunshine Valley composting site in the Nicola Valley but has not hauled there since the protest began.”
In the statement, the company says biosolids use has been proven effective around the world. “Processing and spreading biosolids on land has less impact that disposing of materials through incineration, which creates emissions.”
The company says its responsibilities include verifying the sludge from municipal treatment plants meets Class A standards before transporting and if they don’t, will provide additional treatment through a carbon-based composting and aeration process.
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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2015