A photo taken by Ministry of Environment inspectors on Nov. 22, 2018. The photo shows manure runoff on the south side of the storage facility. Ministry of Environment.

Trustees ask for more help after tearful meeting on B.C. school’s ‘toxic’ stench

Enforcement has ‘no teeth,’ school trustee says, while kids become sick

Shannon Gaudette stood in front of Abbotsford’s board of education and passionately expressed the health concerns she and many other parents have for the children at King Traditional Elementary. By the end, she was fighting back tears.

“Students are consistently feeling unwell, getting sick to their stomach, reporting that their stomachs hurt, headaches, not wanting to eat their lunches, covering their faces with their coats and sweaters when they are outside and breathing,” Gaudette said at the meeting on Tuesday.

“[The company] is well aware of the negative effects their operation is having… but they just don’t seem to care.”

The two-and-half-year toxic stench saga, stemming from the manure composting facility across the street, has trustees feeling like they’ve tried everything to get the Ministry of the Environment to help.

The facility, operated by 93 Land Company, has received four warnings of non-compliance and two monetary penalties totalling $29,000 for improper storage and importation of manure since buying the property in March 2017. The most recent fine was on June 17, which was paid shortly after it was received.

Environment Minister George Heyman himself has called the operation “illegal,” but the department’s enforcement policy is centered around voluntary compliance.

“Which means there’s no teeth,” said school board vice-chair Rhonda Pauls. “I think back to Erin Brockovich and I think, where’s the case history that says we know that children are safe in that environment?”

RELATED: Toxic smell returns to Abbotsford school, raising health concerns for kids, teachers

At Monday’s meeting, trustees voted to write to the education ministry, asking it to pressure the Ministry of Environment to step up enforcement.

“While we’re not in the same situation as the students, parents, community and teachers, there is a collective frustration here,” said chair Stan Petersen. “We haven’t been able to get other ministries to take care of it. Maybe we can get the one most closely connected to us [to act].”

A Nov. 13 letter to parents says the company has “shown a strong willingness to comply” and that the province its reviewing its application for a waste discharge permit to legalize their operations.

But the most recent inspection, on Nov. 24, found 93 Land Company was still in violation of the Environmental Land Management Act.

RELATED: Abbotsford parent OK with manure facility near school getting permit

The symptoms that kids and staff are reporting are similar to those reported by farmer workers when exposed to manure, according to the National Collaborative Centre for Environmental Health.

School staff have filed a total of 14 claims to WorkSafeBC.


@portmoodypigeon
patrick.penner@abbynews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Radium author launches book

Radium Hot Springs author Brent Lea launches thriller set in the great outdoors of southeastern B.C.

Helping our community during COVID-19

A high school student’s perspective

The buoys are back in town

Watershed Wanderings column by Lake Windermere Ambassadors

Invermere council okay with ‘reverse grad march’ idea

Nothing finalized and complications aplenty, but Invermere council agrees to grad march idea

101-year-old man targets 101 block fundraising walk for food bank

A centenarian in Invermere has embarked on a new adventure to raise money for the food bank.

George Floyd asphyxiated by sustained pressure: family autopsy

Death sparked a wave of protests across the U.S. and abroad

COVID-19: B.C. commercial landlords can’t evict if they decline rent assistance

Emergency order ‘incentive’ for federal program, Carole James says

Investigators probe death of CN employee at Surrey rail yard

Transportation Safety Board is investigating an ‘occurrence that took place during switching operations’

Trans Mountain starts B.C. leg of pipeline twinning project

Mostly finished in Alberta, Burnaby terminal expanding

Introducing the West Coast Traveller: A voyage of the mind

Top armchair travel content for Alaska, Yukon, BC, Alberta, Washington, Oregon and California!

NDP getting COVID-19 wage subsidy ‘indirectly,’ B.C. Liberal leader says

Andrew Wilkinson says he’s heard no concerns from public

Love flourishes at Peace Arch Park, but COVID-19 concerns loom

South Surrey park becomes only place for international couples to meet

Most Read