VERNON - The Township of Spallumcheen has reluctantly given the green light to a local dairy farm believed to be a likely source of nitrates in the Hullcar water supply to expand its operation.
Council is ‘very concerned’ about two building permit applications submitted by HS Jansen & Sons Farm Ltd., council states in a press release, but says it had no choice but to approve them.
The permits are for a 20,000-square-foot barn for shavings storage and a 33,920-square-foot dairy barn.
Area residents have been on a drinking water advisory for roughly two years due to elevated nitrate levels, and have been calling on the Interior Health Authority to order a moratorium on the spreading of liquid manure on a filed above the aquifer.
“The Township of Spallumcheen researched its options for withholding or delaying the issuance of the building permit for the dairy barn addition. This research included a legal opinion provided by the township’s lawyer who concluded that a building permit is required to be issued if it meets the requirements of the Township of Spallumcheen’s building bylaw,” the township says in the release.
Because the applications meet all the requirements for the building code, it would be unlawful to withhold the permits, the release notes.
“Council is disappointed that the building permit application for this dairy barn addition has been submitted when the sources of the high nitrate levels in the Hullcar aquifer have not been confirmed and an action plan to remediate the aquifer has not been implemented,” the township says.
In a release, resident and member of the Save Hullcar Aquifer Team Al Price says disappointment doesn’t even come close to describing how he feels about the decision. He also points out the farmer is only doing what the government allows him to do.
“And the fact that an industrial dairy can be either established or expanded with only a building permit, even when it is pinpointed by the government as contaminating the aquifer that supplies drinking water to about 350 people, is an indictment of the provincial government's policy of putting industry before people,” Price says.
As a response to spiking nitrate levels in 2014, the Ministry of Environment ordered the farm to limit the amount of effluent spread on the field, something local residents and a legal team at the University of Victoria’s Environmental Law Centre argue shows that the government recognized the link between the farm and the water contamination.
A group of hydrogeologists have also pointed to the farm as a probable source of contamination.
Recently, the Ministry of Environment issued pollution abatement orders to several farms in the Hullcar area believed to be contributing to high nitrate levels.
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