For the Columbia Shuswap Regional District elected officials and staff who have been working to bring a new liquid waste management facility to the South Shuswap, a recent decision by the Agricultural Land Commission is a major setback.
The ALC executive committee refused to exclude a 49-hectare piece of land located at the corner of Balmoral Road and the Trans-Canada Highway from the Agricultural Land Reserve. The CSRD had been acting as agent for the property owner in hopes of purchasing 13.6 hectares of the property in order to build a waste water treatment storage pond, which it was hoped would be the long-awaited solution to the proliferation of privately operated sewer systems in the South Shuswap.
According to a report attached to the agenda of the Nov. 15 CSRD board meeting, regional district staff have been researching community sewerage for the Blind Bay and Sorrento area for approximately 20 years. They thought they had their solution in the property, which had an existing natural depression and was close to an existing private sewer treatment facility, making it an ideal location for a storage lagoon. It is also located close to farmland, so the treated effluent could have been put to use as nutrient-rich spray irrigation for the crops.
“The CSRD has now exhausted its efforts to research land disposal options of effluent in accordance with the LWMP. All viable options have been researched and determined to be not feasible or not acceptable for a variety of reasons. Lake discharge may be a scientifically viable option and available to local governments according to the LWMP, but is deemed socially unacceptable,” the report reads.
“This has certainly been the largest frustration of my political life, working on this for the last six years,” said Paul Demenok, the electoral area director representing Area C.
Demenok said that he doesn’t share staff’s assumption that all the options for liquid waste management in the South Shuswap have been taken into account. He added that he thinks a better liquid waste management solution is necessary for Blind Bay and Sorrento to grow, particularly in terms of larger commercial, recreational and assisted-living facilities.
“At this point, I’m not ready to throw in the towel,” he said.
Demenok said there is an environmental need for better liquid waste management in the area as waste leeching from the numerous septic tanks in Area C is causing groundwater monitoring to show more bacteria.
CSRD Chief Administrative Officer Charles Hamilton said a mandatory septic pump-out bylaw could be looked into to mitigate the environmental effects of the septic tanks.
Darcy Mooney, who works in operations management for the CSRD, said besides above-ground storage and spray irrigation, the possibility of rapidly infiltrating treated effluent into the water table was investigated. Several properties in the Sorrento area were investigated but none of them proved suitable. He added non-agricultural land was investigated for an above-ground sewage lagoon before moving on to properties in the ALR. All of them, besides the Balmoral lands, were ruled out as options.
Kevin Flynn, representing Salmon Arm on the CSRD board, expressed exasperation over the ALC’s decision-making process.
“I find a level of frustration I have never seen with the ALC when it comes to community greater good,” he said. “I think the mandate from the current government is to pretty much say no to everything.”
The chair of the ALC has 60 days to overturn the decision and the owner of the property has one year to appeal. Mooney said the applicant has expressed interest in starting an appeal.