Battle over tainted water

The nitrate-laden water issue in Spallumcheen's Hullcar Valley is a longterm challenge that the province is trying to fix, according to Environment Minister Mary Polak who has apologized for the lack of timely information over a recent spill.

Meanwhile, the NDP has blasted the government for failing residents in the valley who've been on a drinking water advisory for almost three years.

Polak's comment to the legislature Thursday followed an accusation by NDP environment critic George Heyman that the ministry failed to take action ahead of last week's massive sewage lagoon breach at Gracemar Farms Ltd. on Salmon River Road.

Residents expressed fear the manure would leach into the groundwater supply, causing further problems to the drinking water system.

“We're now told that last week's sewage lagoon breach spilled 120,000 gallons of liquid manure above the Hullcar acquifer water supply,” Heyman said.

Last April, an environmental protection officer warned the farm where the spill occurred that its storage capacity was not accurate and gave it 30 days to detail actions to be taken to remedy the situation, said Heyman.

“Yet no corrective actions were taken up to the time of last week's sewage spill. Can the environment minister explain to area residents why her government took no action, completely failed them and let 10 months go by while taking no action, no action to protect Hullcar residents drinking water supply?”

Polak apologized to residents, including the Splatsin First Nation, for officials' failure to give “timely information” about the spill which led to a lot of anxiety.

“But to say that staff have done nothing is just ridiculous,” Polak responsed. “Staff, through an interministry working group, have been engaged now over the course of more than a year.

“Our ministry has issued pollution abatement orders and pollution prevention orders to nine different agricultural operations. They are going to continue to work with the community and the agricultural operators to try to find a way to bring this aquifer back to a state where it has its water advisory removed but this is a long term challenge.”

The farm has also apologized for the spill.

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