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Shuswap organizations want improvements to water protection

B.C. Government conducting agriculture waste review
Alan Price photo Manure is spread on fields in the Hullcar area.

Environmental and water protection groups are calling for increased action from the B.C. government to reduce the impact of agricultural waste on the Shuswap watershed.

In the wake of problems from agricultural waste in the Hullcar aquifer, the B.C. government is conducting an agriculture waste review and has asked local groups to provide input and ideas for improvement.

There is concern in the area for elevated levels of both nitrates and phosphates, which can be linked to waste related to dairy and cattle operations, including the spreading of manure and chemical fertilizers.

The Shuswap Water Action Team (SWAT) is advocating for the urgent need to measure and monitor the cumulative effect of all the waste discharges into the Shuswap and to place a moratorium on new or increased industrial agricultural developments until the impact to the watershed is known.

“The total volume of waste discharges is increasing in the Shuswap, especially with recent increases in industrial agricultural facilities. It’s inevitable that it will ultimately increase contamination of our water,” states the SWAT recommendations. “The Shuswap River is already the largest source of contaminants into our lake.”

They also counter the notion that the industry can police itself, as in the current professional reliance model for following environmental requirements.

“There will always be those that don’t follow regulations, so independent monitoring and inspections are essential, along with increased authority over agriculture volumes and locations.”

Ray Nadeau, president of SWAT says without these changes, “our water will continue to deteriorate indefinitely.”

The Shuswap Environmental Action Society echoes the SWAT recommendations and want to see mandatory environmental planning.

“Our brief focuses on the use of the precautionary principle in decision-making and the need for improved monitoring an enforcement by government staff to help minimize nutrient run-off into Shuswap Rivers and lakes, ” says spokesperson Jim Cooperman.

The Shuswap Watershed Council, also sent recommendations, and chairperson Paul Demenok, says their approach was to “take a balanced view of the issue so that both environmental and economic interests are taken into consideration.”

“On the one hand we have the lakes and rivers that support our tourism economy and are enjoyed by our residents. On the other hand we have a critically important agricultural industry right her in our region, contributing to locally grown food. Our perspective is that a revised agricultural waste regulation should take all of that into account.”

Points made in their submission included considering designating the Shuswap watershed as a “sensitive receiving environment,” and collaborating with the ministry to define what that term means, requiring nutrient management planning in the region, more protective measures for setbacks from water sources and storage to eliminate leachate and developing a strategy to regulate small lot holdings.

Comments on the proposed revisions are now closed.