Keywords: Waste Management Act – definition of “environment”, ss. 10, 11; biosolids; drinking water contamination; flood plain; monitoring
The Appellants appealed the decision of the Assistant Regional Waste Manager to issue a permit to the Greater Vancouver Sewage & Drainage District and the Mayer Ranch. The permit authorized the discharge of biosolids (treated municipal sewer sludge) as a fertilizer and soil conditioner on the Mayer Ranch. The main issue was whether the permit would ensure “protection of the environment” in accordance with the requirements of the Waste Management Act.
The Board found that there was no dispute that the biosolids contain many potentially harmful substances that could negatively affect a number of local residents. The Board also found that the ranch is located in the 100 year flood plain for the Similkameen River, and may be subject to seasonal high groundwater. Given that a number of local residents obtain drinking water from groundwater sources, and the proximity of the ranch to the River, the Board found that further investigation of the site-specific risks should have been done before the permit was issued.
In addition, the Board found that the permit did not specify sufficient safeguards for the protection of the environment, did not set clear standards, and contained insufficient detail to determine what was actually being permitted. Further, the Board found that the permit did not ensure that a suitably qualified professional at arm’s length from the parties would conduct testing and monitoring. For all of these reasons, the Board found that the permit would not ensure “protection of the environment” in accordance with the requirements of the Act.
Accordingly, the permit was rescinded. The appeal was allowed.