WEST KELOWNA - The occupation of Christy Clark's West Kelowna constituency offices ended today but the situation that caused it — where the Westside dumps its sewage—could continue for years.
The chiefs of five native bands, and some non-native protesters from the Lower Nicola valley swarmed Clark's constituency office in downtown Westbank for five days, though Clark herself is only figuratively involved. The protesters are upset because the Central Okanagan Regional District sends treated biosolids—everything flushed down the toilets in Peachland, West Kelowna and Westbank First Nation, less the water — to the Lower Nicola valley where it's treated by a private company to become fertilizer. Most communities have a similar product that is popular at gardening stores; you might know it as Ogogrow. In the Nicola Valleys, it's Sunshine Grow. But to the chiefs, it's disrespectful of traditional native lands.
They targetted West Kelowna because the chiefs made their demands of the Premier and her riding just happens to be where the mess begins, on the Westside.
The regional district knows it needs a local solution, says spokesperson Bruce Smith, but has no plans until they create a master plan for the Westside Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant and it hasn't even begun yet.
"This is not a short-term or even a mid-term solution," Smith said. "It's not going to happen next week."
The regional district is still in year one of a five-year contract with BioCentral, a company with a location in the Nicola Valley near Merritt. BioCentral referred calls to a backgrounder and offered no further comment.
Global News reported yesterday the occupation ended without the moratorium protesters sought. Instead, the leaders of the five native bands involved in the occupation have been promised a high-level meeting with government officials today.
Smith says the regional district hopes BioCentral can honour the remaining 54 months of the contract to accept approximately 100 tonnes a week of biosolids from the waste water treatment plant in West Kelowna, but says it has contingency plans in place. Since February, the regional district has diverted all its biosolid shipments to its previous contractor, Sylvis Environmental near Clinton B.C. where it undergoes land application.
“We’re viewing this as a temporary problem that we hope can be resolved," Smith said.
Smith defended the product handling and treatment protocols of BioCentral.
“They make a class A compost exactly the same as Ogogrow,” he said. “There is so much misinformation and fear-mongering out there. It meets the requirements of the Organic Matter Recyling regulation.”
Smith said the regional district for many years buried biosolids at the now-closed Westside landfill and only considered an outside option when no local companies responded to its tender.
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—Correction 8:39 p.m. Tues. April 21, 2015 Spelling of Sylvis Environmental was changed and clarification was made of contract details regarding how biosolids are transported.