As the Official Opposition Spokesperson for Agriculture and Food, I work on farming issues around the province. Often this work is covered extensively by local media but does not get as much coverage elsewhere.
The article below by Roger Knox and reprinted from the Vernon Morning Star is one example. My colleagues and I have repeatedly raised this matter in the BC Legislature and we are continuing to work actively on this file.
Township water issue attracts visitorsBy ROGER KNOX
March 29, 2016 · 2:13 PM
They've been putting pressure on the B.C. Liberal government during Legislature sessions to do something about the quality of drinking water in Spallumcheen.
On Tuesday, a trio of NDP MLAs had a first-hand look at what they’ve been asking questions about.
George Heyman (Vancouver-Fairview), Lana Popham (Saanich South) and Scott Fraser (Alberni-Pacific Rim) visited Spallumcheen, where a water quality advisory was issued two years ago for the Steele Springs Water District, private well users and Splatsin Band members who use the Hullcar aquifer as its main water source after high nitrate levels were recorded.
A large dairy farm operation above the aquifer has been identified as the “likely” source of the contamination, caused by the spraying of liquid manure.
The Save Hullcar Aquifer Team from Spallumcheen has called on the government to order a complete and permanent moratorium on the application of liquid manure on the farm’s 210-acre field.
“We’re on a break from the Legislature so we thought we’d come see things for ourselves,” said Heyman who, along with Popham, have been questioning the ministers of health, environment and agriculture over the contamination and lack of soil testing results released to the public.
“We’re here to tour the water source and we’ve seen the so-called field of concern. We’re going to try and get more answers in Victoria as to what exactly is being done to protect residents from water contamination.”
Heyman is the NDP green economy critic, Popham is the agriculture critic and Fraser is the critic responsible for the ministry of aboriginal relations and reconciliation.
They spent several hours meeting with residents and Splatsin members before returning to Victoria later in the day.
“Our jobs as MLAs is to protect the public interest,” said Fraser. “I can’t think of a greater public interest than safe, clean drinking water. It’s time for the government to get its act together and move on this before crop season starts in the spring and there’s more spraying.”
The politicians want the government to release results from tests the NDP say the ministry of environment ordered the farm in question to undertake. The government, in question period, said they couldn’t release the results because the results belong to the farm who had them commissioned.
“It’s a bit of a Catch 22,” said Heyman. “For ordinary people who just want to know if their drinking water is safe, it just doesn’t make sense (to not release the results). It doesn’t seem right.”
Al Price is the spokesperson for the Save Hullcar Aquifer Team. He told the trio that a 2006 report, along with results from testing done by Brian Upper, the chairperson of the Steele Springs Water District, shows the farm is the likely source of the contamination.
Both were grateful to have the trio visit the region.
“The pressure George and Lana are putting on in the Legislature is getting us more mileage than anything else,” said Price, who met with Shuswap Liberal MLA Greg Kyllo for two hours in Kyllo’s hometown of Sicamous on Monday to discuss the matter.
“I’d say they’re getting to the government.”