Composted material is pictured in a pile at the Celgar site.

Composted material is pictured in a pile at the Celgar site.

Bio-solid benefits not universally accepted

Many take advantage of Celgar byproducts, others are wary

  • May. 23, 2012 12:00 p.m.

Like the bacteria found in the pulp mill bio-solids, by-products of the pulp making process, a controversy is active in Krestova. At issue is the practice of using what’s called soil amendments in an effort to improve the soil in various locations.

Zellstoff Celgar makes the material available to the public at no charge. It is a material they’ve tried incinerating, with limited success. A use as an agricultural enhancement has since been discovered and is now promoted. In some cases it is touted as providing benefits in terms of water retention and fertility.

“Because of the moisture content it is not a good fuel,” said Jim McLaren, contractor and long-time former Celgar employee on May 22.”In the late 1990s and early 2000s there was a four-year period when the Teck smelter took all of the material and trucked it down to an area above Rivervale,” he said.

“They composted it with sand and used it for cleaning up the river bank, areas around the smelter and various community parks in Trail.”As far as McLaren is concerned the the material is benign and effective.He described how interested people can come by the mill and get their own for pick-up loads or less. He said large quantities, like a dump-truck load, are delivered. He said large amounts are subject to testing, to the material itself and the soil at the destination.

Krestova resident Alan Alton is concerned by what he feels are lax requirements regarding the testing of the bio-solids, and by what they may contain. He’s not pleased with the material being anywhere near his well-water, and he says he’s got company. He is familiar with the protest that took place in the 90s.

“I remember hearing something about it when I moved up here,” he said on May 23. “But I didn’t pay any attention. Then it was dumped here a couple of weeks ago and I thought, ‘Gee, that’s pulpmill sludge.’ I knew nothing about it so I looked into it. It’s not very nice stuff.”I’m an old logger, Alton continued. “I’m not against the pulp mill or anything like that. But the pulp mill is policing themselves.”

Alton, basically, has not heard anything to reassure him that sufficient testing on the material has taken place.He has been part of a group to take their concerns to RDCK Area H (Slocan Valley) Regional Director Walter Popoff.”It is a major issue in the neighbourhood,” said the director, “here where the pulp mill bio-solids were deposited.”

Popoff indicated the matter has been controversial since the mid-90s when the material had been spread on an area of several acres. Area residents had voiced opposition to the action.”There was a major protest against that at that time. But It did not lead anywhere and the Ministry did approve a permit for that deposit.¬†Basically they were concerned about their water and the effects on the neighbourhood,” said Popoff.

“It is a major issue for the residents and I’m looking into it on their behalf… trying to find out what it’s composed of, whether it’s actually safe and if it enhances the soil.”Popoff said he intends to find out what tests have been done on the soil to make it safe for public use. And to see if there are any additional tests that have to be done.”Also I’m looking to see if the Ministry will do a baseline water test to see if it’ll affect the water table in the area.”

Demand, meanwhile, continues according to Jim McLaren.”This year I’ll be surprised if I don’t do 60 individual applications,” he said. “Everything from people up in the Grandview subdivision looking for a truck and a pup to do landscaping around new houses… to a farmer between Fruitvale and Salmo who takes 200 truckloads every year. He’s got a whole cycle going with his hay fields.”A call has been placed with the Ministry of Environment for clarification on this topic, however, no response had been received as of Wednesday morning.