Two trucks of Abbotsford waste went to controversial Merritt site as ‘test run’

Company stops truck running to Merritt site after protests.

City staff issued a report to council last week that said two trucks of local waste were dumped at a controversial Nicola Valley facility last November.

BioCentral, the company contracted to move Abbotsford waste, took the loads as a test run, city staff wrote in their report. While no loads have been made since, the report contradicts a BioCentral consultant who told the News in early March that no biosolids had been shipped to Merritt.

Residents in the Nicola Valley near Merritt are upset about a BioCentral compost site for human waste biosolids from other communities. Last year, BioCentral began hauling waste – mostly from the Kelowna area – to the property, where it is composted before being used as fertilizer.

A $495,000 contract between BioCentral and Abbotsford gives the company the ability to haul waste to the site, and the city has been cited as contributing to the issue. But because the waste produce from the Joint Abbotsford Mission Environmental Systems (JAMES) Wastewater Treatment Plant on Gladwin Road is pasteurized and considered “Class A” material, it does not need to be composted. Instead, Paul said it is usually taken directly to farms in the Lower Mainland and the B.C. interior, where it is applied up to a half-inch thick across fields.

A group calling itself the Friends of the Nicola Valley has organized protests and created a petition calling for the practice to be stopped, and the issue has prompted elected officials from the Thompson-Nicola Regional District (TNRD) to propose changing how biosolids are regulated in British Columbia.

Last week, BioCentral toled the Merritt Herald that it would stop bringing biosolids to the area until the Ministry of Environment reached a deal with local First Nations group. Another facility in Clinton will be used, the Herald reported.

The staff report said that “BioCentral has decided not to take further JAMES Plant biosolids to this site for the time being. As a result, the biosolids currently at this site are primarily from other jurisdictions, and any odour is likely caused by composting these into a Class A product.

When contacted last week, BioCentral consultant John Paul said he was surprised to hear that some material had been taken to Merritt.

BioCentral manager Adres Murillo said the test run was to determine how much weight and material vehicles bound for the material could handle. He reiterated that there were no plans to take waste from the JAMES plant to the Merritt site.

At last week’s council meeting, Abbotsford councillors said the city should have done more to counter the belief that its waste has been regularly hauled to the Merritt site.