The proposed use of processed human waste to improve the soil at the Turtle Valley Bison Ranch has prompted a meeting between local residents and NutriGrow, a supplier of biosolids products in B.C.
Ranch owner Louis Blanc says this project is designed to improve the quality of the soil in their pastures and make them a more reliable source of feed for the bison throughout the year.
“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,” he says.
“The pasture is good for the first flush in the spring… unless you get a really wet summer it doesnt really grow much again. It would really be great if that soil could hold water again.”
Bison have to be pastured within fenced areas as it is difficult to allow bison to range. That’s left the ranch having to make the best of the space available.
Biosolids are essentially the final product of the wastewater treatment process, produced from sewage waste that has been treated and processed to reduce bacteria and the presence of pollutants.
In B.C., they are commonly recycled back into the land after being combined with wood chippings, sand or gravel to create an organic reinforcement to the soil.
In fact, upwards of 70 per cent of biosolids produced each year in the province are used to reclaim land used for mining or landfills, as well as to improve the nutrient quality of the soil, according to B.C. government figures.
Despite these proposed benefits, those opposed to the use of biosolids point to studies indicating high levels of metal deposits found in biosolids that do not dissipate over time and may contribute to soil or water contamination.
The response from the community has not been favourable, with some neighbours taking issue with the idea of spreading this biproduct of human waste on farmland.
“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,” says Shirley Mainprize of the Turtle Valley Donkey Refuge.
Mainprize notes that, in her conversations with others in the community, the key issues raised are the potential for pollution, a possible odour while spreading the biosolids and the effect mass transportation of the material might have on the local roads.
“We are living in a pristine part of the world, so do we really need to spread our waste here? The science is still out on the impacts of biosolids in the long term,” Mainprize says.
To this end, the Turtle Valley Community Association and Arrow Environmental, who own NutriGrow, are hosting a meeting Sunday at 1 p.m. at the Turtle Valley Bison Ranch to discuss the use of biosolids and address concerns from residents. The meeting is open to locals who want to know more or share their concerns.
Arrow and NutriGrow were contacted to comment on this story but did not respond before press time. The article will be updated when comment from the company is available.