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Water Today Title June 29, 2022

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Advisory of the Day



Local residents of Spallumcheem, British Columbia are feeling slighted by government agencies who they say aren't doing enough to curb nitrate levels in their drinking water.

Concerned locals - who have been under a Water Quality Advisory since July 2014 - believe the rise of agri-business in the past six years in the area has resulted in a significant uptick of key pollutants in the Hullcar Aquifer that supplies drinking water to 350 local residents as well as two reserves of the Splatsin First Nations People.

Cathie Price, Co-Chair of the Save the Hullcar Aquifer Team (SHAT) believes that if current trends continue, "It's going to be an environmental disaster that is going to affect everyone on the aquifer." According to Health Canada guidelines, nitrate levels in drinking water that exceed 10 parts per million (ppm) can have effects on infants. A recent newsletter by SHAT claims that samples taken from the aquifer in the last 36 months has shown a trend of .5ppm increase in levels of nitrates, averaging around 12ppm, with 13ppm being breached four times. She reiterates that she's not against farming by any means and that she's not interested in putting any farms out of business but she does believe more regulations need to be in place, in order to curb the ill effects. Cathie said she'd like to see flush barn (waste removal) systems discontinued, as she believes they are a waste of water and the effluent produced by them has a highly volatile type of nitrogen. She would also like for the number of cows to be limited to what can safely be accommodated by the land

The farms in question are raising around 1000 head of cattle and using the animal's manure in liquid form to fertilize their crops. Cathie says that the soil on which the fertilizer is being sprayed is loose, gravelly and sandy. In her opinion, it is the equivalent of the effluent being sprayed on a sieve. According to a British Columbia report, The Hullcar Aquifer is an unconfined aquifer, meaning it doesn't have an overlying protective layer of rock, clay, sand or till

British Columbia's Interior Health Agency was able to provide some materials to overview and Rob Birtles, their Team Lead, Small Water Systems and Infrastructure was helpful enough to give this reporter a statement by email. In it he reiterated that he and a group of other agencies, including the Ministry of Environment are dealing with this issue, recognizing its importance and taking steps to ensure residents have safe drinking water. They're hoping to finalize results of testing of the impacted area by this spring.

As of deadline, a representative from the Ministry of the Environment could not be reached.

Local elections will be held in May of this year. We will have more info on this ongoing issue before then

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