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Pulp mill waste not wanted


July 10, 2012
By The Canadian Press

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July 10, 2012, Krestova, BC – Residents of the Slocan Valley town of Krestova want pulp mill waste
that's been trucked onto three properties to be removed over fears their
ground water could be contaminated.

The Zellstoff Celgar pulp mill in neighbouring Castlegar is offering
the so-called bio solids, which are created from wood waste, for free as
a type of fertilizer that would otherwise be burned.

"I feel we're just being used as a dump site," said Nick Kootnikoff,
whose well supplies water for eight properties and is within the
30-metre legal limit of an acreage containing the waste.

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"If I knew what was in there I'd feel more comfortable, but from what
I've heard it has sewage sludge in it," he said. "I'm uncomfortable with
sludge that has human waste in it."

"We want it removed," said Alan Anton, who lives a few houses down from
one property where the waste has gone. "There is a community hall and
day care centre downhill of this field. If our water got contaminated
that is our only water source and we're hooped for 25 years."

Anton said there are three properties containing bio solids in the
community of 150 people that was settled by Doukhobors and is about 20
kilometres from Nelson.

Jim McLaren, a retired Celgar employee who now arranges the
distribution of bio solids for the company, said the material contains
mainly wood fibres, mixed with 40 per cent surplus bacteria, which aid
in breaking down the wood fibres, and 10 per cent lime, grit, gravel and
waste water.

McLaren said waste water from the sewage treatment plant is deposited
on piles of bio solids and it's so safe that it's also dumped in the
Columbia River.

He said Celgar delivers the fertilizer-like bio solids to property
owners after a lengthy application process with the Environment
Ministry.

"We don't think there is a biological risk to this material," said
McLaren, who doesn't recommend people use the bio solids on land where
food is grown.

He said 33 other properties in the Kootenay area contain the bio waste
and that 27 applications for the material are pending with the
Environment Ministry.

Krestova resident Joyce Van Bynen, who had 200 tonnes of bio solids
applied to two acres in May, is sold on the product and said it helped
revive her horse pasture within a short time.

The soil in the town is mainly sandy with little moisture retention and
grows nothing but knapweed in the pastures. Van Bynen said that within
two months of spreading the bio solids and grass seed, she has about 10
centimetres of lush grass for her horses to eat.

"There is nothing but good from this product. It's been tested seven
ways from Sunday and has been proven to enhance the soil," said Van
Bynen, who also works for Celgar, as an environmental technologist.

The bio solids are within six metres of her well and Van Bynen said she
drinks from the same aquifer as the rest of the community.

"I am quite confident with what is in this material and that it is
benign," she said, adding the bio solids have also been dumped on
another property two kilometres from her own.

Before the bio solids are applied, the Environment Ministry requires
Celgar to test the land and the bio solids for moisture content, trace
metals such as arsenic, lead and mercury. It also tests for pathogens.

Chris Stroich of the Environment Ministry said there is no sewage sludge in the Celgar bio solids.

Trace metal values for bio solids delivered to Krestova "have been well
below that specified in the ministry's (Soil Amendment Code of
Practice)," he said in an email.

However, Walter Popoff, regional director of Area H for the central
Kootenay district, said "Krestova residents are right to be concerned.
Basically, the residents are concerned for their health."

The (Environment Ministry) tests that are done, in their opinion, are
not sufficient enough to make them feel safe," he said. "If this was
being done beside me, this would be my concern also and I would want
reassurance."

"No amount (of bio solids) is safe as far as I'm concerned," Kootnikoff
said. "If it is so safe, why doesn't Celgar bag and sell it?"

Popoff will be meeting with the Environment Ministry later this month to discuss the issue.

Krestova residents concerned about their health have the backing of
Maureen Reilly, a director for the Ontario group Sludge Watch, which was
involved in the Walkerton inquiry into the tainted water tragedy in
2000 that killed seven people.

Reilly is helping the residents research their concerns and said bio
solids from pulp mills can be laced with chemicals and disease-causing
bacteria.

"Beware of industrial mules bearing gifts," said Reilly, who called the bio solids a "waste product dodge" by pulp companies.

"I'm pretty familiar with what is in these wastes and have seen people
who have become life-long ill from exposure to pulp mill sludge," she
said. "I think the mill needs to find better ways to deal with its
waste."

Krestova residents have dealt with bio solids concerns before, in 1996,
when the material was applied to Van Bynen's property, which at the
time was owned by another Celgar employee.

While the company had conducted a public consultation, the community
appealed the decision to the Environmental Appeal Board, which dismissed
the effort because the appeal wasn't filed within a 30-day time period.

The Environment Ministry did not notify Krestova residents before the
bio solids were dumped on Van Bynen's property, despite assurances that
would happen, say members of the community.

They didn't know the bio solids were coming until they saw the dump
trucks loaded with the black, smelly compost-like material drive by
their homes in early May, Kootnikoff said.