A sooty situation

Members of the Kelowna Yacht Club have been fighting a dirty battle for the last several months.

An influx of soot is landing on the boats in the marina, and it's coming from Tolko, according to Geoff Gowe Operations Manager at the Yacht Club.

“There is a large amount of black soot on the boats and that shows up as sort of black dots, and if it sits on there for a while and dries, it sort of adheres onto the boats and is very difficult to get off,” he said. “Or if it is wet, that black soot will smear.”

In the spring, when the soot seemed particularly bad, members met with a representative from Tolko who claimed there was a reason the soot seemed to be a issue at that time of year and they were working to mitigate the problem.

“The problem did seem to get better for a couple months, but then on the July long weekend, members started to notice soot was falling quite regularly again,” explained Gowe. “It seems to be an ongoing thing, not a one-time issue.”

The soot is apparently a problem every year, but this summer it seems particularly bad.

“In 2006, it was a bad problem... and members of the community filed a class action lawsuit against Tolko and won. Some members did get money from Tolko to deal with cleaning their boats.”

The problem isn’t just dirty boats. Gowe and other members claim if there is soot in the water, there is soot in the air.

“The soot on the boats is aggravating, but members are also concerned with it being in the air as well,” said Gowe.

Ron Van Kampen is one of the members who has had to clean his boat several times this season due to the soot.

“The chemicals that most people need to use in the basin here to clean up, I can't imagine are all that environmentally friendly and that is going into the water,” said Van Kampen. “I have a black line on my boat that I try and scrub and clean it up, but it reappears in a few days. I can’t imagine the quality of the water and the effect that it has on that.”

The board of directors is now initiating a campaign of letters to a list of recipients to bring attention to the damage caused by the soot and the environmental concerns the Yacht Club has for the greater community. These letters will be distributed to a broad list of political offices.

Tolko issued the following response:

Tolko Kelowna is aware of the concerns of Kelowna Yacht Club members, some of their letters having reached us just today, and we will be meeting with the general manager and members in the coming days to assess the situation and determine next steps.

Corporate citizenship is important to us and maintaining good relationships with our neighbours is a key part of that process. We work hard to find solutions that allow us to meet our operational requirements while acting as good corporate citizens in the community. We will do the same in this situation.

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