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Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

More questions follow criticisms of CRD public consultation

CRD Chair Colin Plant has called a special board meeting for Jan. 31

Municipal
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

More questions follow criticisms of CRD public consultation

CRD Chair Colin Plant has called a special board meeting for Jan. 31

Biosolids. Photo: Shutterstock
Biosolids. Photo: Shutterstock
Municipal
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

More questions follow criticisms of CRD public consultation

CRD Chair Colin Plant has called a special board meeting for Jan. 31

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More questions follow criticisms of CRD public consultation
Biosolids. Photo: Shutterstock

Days after Capital Daily published a story on the long-standing issue of how the CRD plans to manage waste biosolids, the CRD board is responding to critics of its public consultation process. Human waste management is a divisive topic and has a singularly contentious history here; one that is littered with deferrals and delays. But as biowaste pushes the physical limits of the Hartland Landfill, the push to find a viable solution has become urgent—and what that solution will be is still up for debate.  

After the CRD launched its public consultation, critics such as Hugh Stephens, a fellow of the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada (APF Canada), and former Victoria coun. Phillipe Lucas wrote separate letters to the board suggesting the information provided to the public was biased and even ran counter to existing regulations on the CRD’s books about the land application of biosolids. Stephens was also concerned that the survey was skewed because it had only one question on why the 2011 land application ban was decided in the first place. And they weren’t alone in feeling surprised at the lack of transparency in the public consultation process.

Concerns are being raised, not just about the content of the CRD’s consultation materials, but the process by which they landed in the public sphere. The third-party consultants and CRD staff that launched the public survey and its companion resources did not share those materials with their board before the launch. Nor did they share them with the technical advisory committee that was formed, according to committee member Winona Pugh, to provide insight into the subject.

Barb Desjardin, Esquimalt mayor and a CRD board member, said she and board Chair Colin Plant were surprised that the technical advisory committee had not been able to vet it. She said it is her understanding “that this was something that the consultants did have a discussion with them around”, although she said, “that may have been solely around its format and not its content.” 

Plant said the board has "come to believe the survey and information provided was not appropriate to gauge public input.” 

He also told Capital Daily that "after hearing from public, and then talking to a couple of directors, I have come to the belief that the board needs to have additional information."

CRD Board Chair Plant calls for special meeting

Plant has requested staff prepare an information report for a special board meeting scheduled for Jan. 31 that will speak to how the consultation materials and survey were developed and reviewed and by whom. He says he made the decision not to take the survey down. Two more months are remaining on the survey clock but Plant said he’d rather collect participant emails and circle back for additional input once things have been reviewed than remove it now. “I was not going to use my authority as the board chair, said Plant, “to unilaterally do that without having board endorsement of a change of action.”

That’s not what APF Canada’s Stephens wanted to see. “I sincerely hope they will do the right thing and pull this consultation document and start afresh with a properly designed document that truly informs the public,” he said.  

Ultimately, Plant said, the board has “three courses of action: do nothing, make changes, or tell staff to come up with another plan.” At this point, neither Plant nor Desjardins is promising a course change in their consideration of the land application of biosolids. There is still the province’s input to consider because once it does come in, it may mean significant budget and infrastructure changes for multiple BC jurisdictions already engaged in biosolid land application.

“In October,” said Desjardins, “we received information that the province was doing some review so we deferred, understanding that the province would have their review done in November. And that has not been made available yet.” 

No updates from BC government in almost 8 years

The province has not updated its public information on the topic since 2016, though its literature review of that same year—readily available to CRD board members—outlines both its risks stating that “there is conclusive evidence that a wide range of organic contaminants are present in biosolids” and cites serious concerns about the bioaccumulation of those same toxins in fish and animals. 

A report titled Long-Term Beneficial Use Analysis presented to the CRD last July by Vancouver-based consulting firm GHD indicates the jury is still out on some uses of biosolids and states “these potential impacts are the subject of ongoing scientific research. CCME’s (Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment’s) guidelines note that many CECs (chemicals of emerging concern) are found in low concentrations in biosolids, and that detection does not necessarily mean there is a risk to human health or the environment.”  So it seems there is both less and more information out there than the CRD’s public consultation materials would suggest, however, it is the legislators who will have to make the final decision on the subject.

“We need to be very clear on how we are going about this,” Desjardins said. “You need to have a lot of understanding around everything in order to be able to really make an informed opinion on all of the materials that we produce.” 

Public is invited to meeting at the end of the month

Members of the public are invited to attend the special board meeting on Jan. 31 but will be asked to register by Jan. 25. “It’ll really be a check”, said Plant “on how we got here.”

One has to wonder whether it will offer any definitive answer on where all that poop will be going. 

CORRECTION : A previous version of this story mistakenly included part of Colin Plant's second quote (para. 6) within his first (para. 5), creating a misquote. The story was updated on Friday Jan. 19 to correct the misquote and add the second quote separately. We regret the error.

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