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Province issues orders to several North Okanagan farms in light of high nitrate levels

Manure is spread on a 210 acre field above the Hullcar water aquifer in summer 2015.
Image Credit: Al Price
May 11, 2016 - 8:30 AM

SPALLUMCHEEN - Provincial authorities have issued orders to several farms in the Hullcar area believed to be contributing to elevated nitrate levels in the local water supply.

The province recently issued draft pollution abatement orders to the farms based on water quality information and a ‘reasonable likelihood’ the operations are contributing to the elevated nitrate levels, Ministry of Environment spokesperson David Karn confirmed in an email.

High nitrate levels have been plaguing residents of the Hullcar Valley in Spallumcheen for years.

Karn did not say exactly how many farms were issued orders, but said smaller agricultural producers are required to take several measures to better manage manure, including establishing proper storage, developing drainage to contain waste, and establishing a buffer area around wellheads, property boundaries and surface water.

Four larger operations were given different orders requiring more detailed plans including monitoring, an environmental impact assessment, and an action plan for how the introduction of waste into the environment will be minimized. They also need to have an ongoing monitoring plan for surface water, groundwater and soil samples and prepare an annual report and ongoing updates to the action plan.

Specific orders were also given for poultry operations, including reporting to the ministry about how manure is being used and publicly posting all material covered under the order at the Hullcar Community Hall.

Roughly 200 Spallumcheen residents supplied by the Steele Water Springs Water District have been on a drinking water advisory for the past two years due to high nitrate levels, which are associated with serious medical conditions such as blue baby syndrome.

Residents believe the majority of the contaminants are coming from the application of manure over a farmer’s field above the aquifer and have filed a formal request to Interior Health asking for an immediate moratorium to the practice.


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