Concerns about the Salmon Arm Fire Department’s annual spring cleaning activities didn’t wash with city council.
Last Monday, council received a letter from local businessman Ken Gennings, who wished to share his concern regarding the fire department’s annual fundraising effort of cleaning of parking lots.
In the letter, Gennings said he supports the city’s firefighters and their fundraising but, as a small businessperson, part of his annual income comes from the sweeping of parking lots.
“This takes away from my stream of income as well as my employees,” said Gennings, adding the material his company sweeps up is recycled. This leads to his next point, that hosing off silt and aggregate may clean a parking lot, but it goes into catch basins and storm drains.
“Although contaminants will always be present on roadways and parking lots, and continuously washed into our storm drains, this practice moves a substantial amount of contaminants directly into the storm drains at one time,” said Gennings. “It’s my belief that many of the contaminants from the winter are trapped in the layers of silt and aggregates, and when the parking lots are mechanically swept, many of the contaminants are removed with it.”
Gennings suggests the city work with private contractors and have them remove the heavy sediment and aggregate and the fire department could then wash down the fine silt.
Fire Chief Brad Shirley said the annual washing of parking lots is both a training opportunity, as well as a fundraising effort. Shirley added the practice is happening less and less as the different firehalls look to alternative fundraising streams.
“I know this year, for example, Hall 1 in Canoe is doing four parking lots, Hall 2 is doing 10, Hall 3 downtown is doing three or four… and Hall 4 is doing two parking lots,” said Shirley. “ They are finding different ways to raise money and getting away from that but it’s still a practice.”
Asked about the impact on catch basins, city engineering and public works director Rob Niewenhuizen said most of the city’s have sumps and they’re cleaned out annually. Regarding water used for the cleaning, he said it’s metered and that it occurs at a time of low use so it’s not a concern.
Coun. Alan Harrison said he appreciates Gennings’ letter but also supports the fire department helping the city with cleaning.
“I think it’s a win-win,” said Harrison. “I understand what Mr. Gennings is saying, but it’s a win because the fire department is helping out, people see the fire department helping out and it helps the city.”