Sewage Sludge Contaminating Watershed
Residents of Canada’s Nicola Valley have said that something stinks about biosolids dumped near homes, rivers, aquifers and crops in their region. They set up roadblocks to stop the practice. A powerful new report backs them up.
John Werring, Senior Science Advisor with the environmental group, The Suzuki Foundation, recently came to the Nicola Valley where he met with some of the area Chiefs and with members of the Friends of the Nicola Valley Society. He listened to the concerns they raised about the land application of biosolids. He took samples from some of the biosolids which had been dumped in this beautiful alpine valley.
Tests showed that the biosolids contained alarmingly high amounts of dangerous toxins. In fact, the “soils” tested indicate an area that could be classified as a “contaminated site” according to the BC Contaminated Sites Regulations guidelines.
The samples exceed the BC limits for contaminated sites under Schedules 4 and 7 of the BC Contaminated Sites Regulations on several parameters. The testing shows that samples of biosolids taken from the Nicola Valley contained several dangerous toxins, including cadmium, uranium, lead, copper, mercury, tin, zinc, dichlorophenol, methylphenol, selenium, sodium, fecal coliform and much more.
Unfortunately, we also know that biosolids contain a deadly and unstoppable contagion known as a prion. Prions are associated with a global epidemic of neurological disease among people, wildlife and livestock. Prions are associated with Alzheimer’s disease, mad cow disease, chronic wasting disease, autism and other neurological maladies known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSE). The wastewater industry and governments prefer not to discuss prions or manage the killer proteins.
TSEs are caused by a deadly protein called a prion (PREE-on). As such, TSEs also are referred to as prion disease. The critical factor is that prions are unstoppable. The pathogen spreads through the bodily fluids and cell tissue of its victims. Blood, saliva, mucus, milk, urine and feces carry deadly prions from victims. All tissue is infectious just because of the contact with the contaminated blood.
TSEs also include Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, mad cow disease and chronic wasting disease in the deer family. Few, if any, mammals are immune. There is no cure.
Dr. Stanley Prusiner, an American neuroscientist from the University of California at San Francisco, earned a Nobel Prize in 1997 for discovering and characterizing deadly prions and prion disease. President Obama awarded Prusiner the National Medal of Science in 2010 to recognize the importance of his research. According to Prusiner, TSEs all are on the same disease spectrum, which is more accurately described as prion disease. He claims that all TSEs are caused by prions.
Prions are unstoppable and the pathogen spreads through the bodily fluids and cell tissue of its victims. Prions shed from humans are the most deadly mutation. They demand more respect than radiation. Infected surgical instruments, for example, are impossible to sterilize and hospitals throw them away. Prions are in the blood, saliva, urine, feces, mucus, and bodily tissue of its victims. Many factors are contributing to the epidemic. Prions are now the X factor. Industry and government are not accounting for them or regulating them. They are ignoring the threat completely, which violates the Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002 in the United States. Other nations also are ignoring laws developed to protect food, air and water.
“There is now real evidence of the potential transmissibility of Alzheimer’s disease,” says Thomas Wiesniewski M.D. a prion and Alzheimer’s researcher at New York University School of Medicine. “In fact, this ability to transmit an abnormal conformation is probably a universal property of amyloid-forming proteins (prions).”
A new study published in the journal Nature renews concern about the transmissibility of Alzheimer’s disease between people. A second study by the same scientist in early 2016 adds to the stack of evidence.
These findings support the local First Nations, and Friends of the Nicola Valley’s position that the practice of land application of biosolids is far too risky to be continued. In fact, once again, it makes one wonder how the practice ever gained approval in the first place. Sewage dumping poses a direct threat to First Nations’ traditional lifeways, and it threatens the health of all citizens within the Nicola Valley. It also threatens everyone downstream with exposure to toxins and neurological disease.
“The independent tests confirm that biosolids must not be applied to land,” said Chief Aaron Sam. “Biosolids contaminate our lands and waters, and it has serious potential negative effects on fish, animals and plants, First Nations people are reliant on the land for food and medicines. Biosolids put the health of our community members at risk. We can no longer sit back while the Government of British Columbia ignores our Constitutionally protected rights to our title and rights. Published, independent science concludes that land application of biosolids is very dangerous. We now have numbers to substantiate that, and these test results were determined by an independent lab. It is time to start looking at real alternatives to land application. The time of cheap, dangerous toxic dispersal throughout rural areas is over. Cities will have to find a greener, sustainable method of dealing with their toxins.”
The Biosolids Controversy, Coverup
The following information comes directly from minutes of Metro Vancouver’s Utilities Committee. It describes the biosolids controversy from the eyes of public servants in Vancouver. The minutes have been revised at least once, so let’s say the minutes are dated May 15, 2015. Public safety appears to be a non-issue.
In November 2014, Metro Vancouver became aware of a controversial biosolids composting project upstream in the Merritt area. Biosolids from Regional District of Central Okanagan were being sent to a biosolids composting facility operated by a company called BioCentral. A second BioCentral facility was slated to receive biosolids from Abbotsford upon approval of the Land Application Plan (a requirement of the Organic Matter Recycling Regulation).
A group calling themselves Friends of the Nicola Valley, led by a resident of a 44‐lot subdivision in close proximity to the second site, began to protest the operation in November 2014. This included conducting interviews, lobbying First Nations in the area, starting a petition and creating a Facebook site which opposes biosolids application in general, not just the BioCentral facility. Although Metro Vancouver projects have been identified on the Facebook site of Friends of the Nicola Valley, Metro Vancouver has not been the principal target to date.
Rey Creek Ranch is a property northwest of Merritt that used Metro Vancouver’s biosolids for fertilization periodically from 1997 to 2014. Currently Metro Vancouver has a contract with Sperling Hansen Associates Inc. (SHA) to apply biosolids at Rey Creek Ranch in 2015 for hayfield, range and transitional forest land application. In late January, SHA received a letter from the Interior Health Authority, which allowed the project to proceed subject to notification of neighbors, including the adjacent Lower Nicola Indian Band. In response to this notification, SHA received a letter from the Lower Nicola Indian Band, referencing Tsilhqot’in v British Columbia 2014 SCC 44, the recent Supreme Court decision regarding Aboriginal Rights and Title. The letter stated that based on their current understanding of the practice of biosolids use they are strongly opposed to biosolids operations until a meaningful dialogue with the Crown and Ministry regulators could be completed to address their concerns, and threatening action for continued operation or new activities without consultation. Biosolids deliveries to Rey Creek Ranch were halted on January 26 with the hope that a meeting could be convened in short order and Lower Nicola Indian Band’s technical concerns could be addressed. No meeting has been scheduled by the Band to date.
Nicola Ranch is just east of Merritt that used Metro Vancouver’s biosolids for fertilization from 1998‐2005. At the Ranch Manager’s request, Metro Vancouver had scheduled biosolids to be delivered to the Ranch in January 2015 for hayfield fertilization. The parties have determined not to proceed with the delivery at this time.
Local First Nations
On December 12, 2014, the five Chiefs of the Nicola Valley (Nooaitch, Lower Nicola, Shackan, Coldwater, and Upper Nicola Indian Bands), wrote to the Ministry of Environment, demanding that all current biosolids applications cease until the Crown and ministry regulators establish a meaningful dialogue resulting in the five Chiefs’ support. On February 12, 2015, the Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) Chiefs Council passed a resolution directing the UBCIC Executive to work with the First Nations Summit and the BC Assembly of First Nations to assist the Nicola Chiefs in halting applications of biosolids in the Nicola Valley, in particular the BioCentral composting site, and immediately call on the Provincial Government to develop a provincial strategy for dealing with biosolids including considering modification of current legislation and regulations.
On March 10, members of these five First Nations, in coordination with the Friends of the Nicola Valley, established a blockade on Highway 8 into Merritt, to stop trucks delivering biosolids from Regional District of Central Okanagan to the BioCentral facility.
Since the controversy began, the Friends of the Nicola Valley have been opposing biosolids use, and the response by BioCentral, the MOE and Interior Health Authority has been very limited and has failed to reassure the Merritt community of biosolids safety. As public confidence and support is critical for biosolids application projects and many of Metro Vancouver’s biosolids projects are located within the Thompson Nicola Regional District (TNRD), these events have the potential to significantly impact our program. Metro Vancouver has been dumping biosolids as a fertilizer throughout the province for 24 years.
Metro Vancouver has the ability to divert biosolids for disposal in Hinton, Alberta, at a higher hauling cost. If Metro Vancouver is unable to send biosolids to Rey Creek Ranch, Nicola Ranch, and OK Ranch in 2015, and is not able to find other comparable land application sites, the total additional cost to the program is estimated to be $1.6 M.
As the current situation has the potential to continue to escalate and impact other project sites, inability to continue with the biosolids beneficial use program could result in additional costs of up to $5M per year for the next 3 years.
Learn more about the perils of sewage mismanagement.