The Turtle Valley Bison Ranch is planning to use a mixture of biosolids and compostable material to rejuvenate soil that was damaged by logging, to create better pastures for their bison herd. (File photo)

Effectiveness of human waste as fertilizer examined during community meeting

Turtle Valley Bison Ranch hopes to improve pastures for grazing animals

The company set to use biosolids as fertilizer to rejuvenate the soil of a bison ranch in the Shuswap offered more information on the practice during a community meeting, hoping to address concerns within the community.

The Turtle Valley Bison Ranch is set to have biosolids – processed human waste mixed with soil and compostable material – mixed in with a pasture in an effort to improve the grazing conditions for their bison.

“The hope is this is going to rejuvenate that soil because it is pretty well depleted – there is no fibre left in it and it will be good for grass again so we can get the bison back on the pasture,” says ranch owner Louis Blanc.

After reaching out to neighbours to let them know what was being planned at the ranch, it became clear there were some concerns within the community around the practice.

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Shirley Mainprize of the Turtle Valley Donkey Refuge said “in this day and age, putting a questionable product on a mountainside right next to a creek that runs into Shuswap Lake is kind of worrying, in my opinion.”

Similar concerns from other residents prompted an information meeting for the community, set up by NutriGrow and Arrow Environmental, the companies who will be spreading the biosolids, which was held March 24.

Brad English, manager of Business Development with Arrow, said “Turtle Valley Bison Ranch follows progressive and sustainable farming practices on its lands, with a focus on zero waste and minimal impact. Biosolids are an endlessly renewable resource, using them as a fertilizer restores organic matter and nutrients to the land.”

He also clarified that the biosolids are being used at the ranch specifically to rejuvenate land which had been logged, hindering its ability to support future growth.

“The goal is creating pastures for the Bison to use in the future. The application of biosolids to this land will help reduce runoff and soil erosion, boost plant growth, and limit the need for chemical fertilizers and irrigation water,” English said.

The company also provided some clarity as to how biosolids differ from more commonly used manure during the meeting, and spoke to how the harmful contaminants in sewage sludge are removed.

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While the process may seem similar to spreading manure onto soil, the biosolids are actually mixed into the soil along with composts such as wood chippings which contribute to slowly releasing nutrients and will hopefully make the soil more sustainable for the long term. B.C. government statistics indicate upwards of 70 per cent of biosolids in the province are put back into the land using this process.

“Biosolids are not untreated waste like sewage or manure. They are also not the same as sewage sludge, which is what’s produced in the first stage of wastewater treatment process,” English said. “Bacteria and high temperatures sanitize, stabilize, and shrink wastewater solids, converting them to an earthy, soil-like material referred to as biosolids.”


 

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