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Princeton area pig composter gets warning letter from ministry

Report alleges 12 areas of non-compliance

The compost facility that accepted thousands of pigs, drowned in the Fraser Valley flood, has received a warning letter from the environment ministry.

Net Zero Waste Eastgate, approximately 50 km west of Princeton, was found by investigators to be out of compliance with 12 regulations of the Environmental Management Act, according to a report dated Jan. 18.

However, the owner of the company told the Spotlight the report is riddled with inaccuracies. Mateo Ocejo added that several of the compliance issues are administrative in nature, and therefore easy to fix, while others are based on misinformation.

The report states that 18,000 tonnes of pigs were not initially dumped onto concrete pads, as is required by law, but rather loaded onto a gravel surface.

Further, despite the company’s claims that there was no leachate discharged, ministry officials were informed by an “on-site representative” that leachate was pumped into a drain pit.

“Samples collected from the leachate pond on Dec. 21, 2021, were highly toxic and would constitute a pollutant if released to the environment,” the report reads.

Ocejo said on Jan. 28, that there were only 8,000 tonnes of carcasses. While most of the pigs were put on cement pads, the last three of 17 truckloads were placed on gravel for three days, he admitted.

He vehemently denied that leachate was pumped into a drain pit, stating that the investigators arrived unannounced, when management was not at the facility, and interviewed a labourer who had no knowledge of the process.

“Dumping into some mystery pit? Of course, that’s not happening. There’s a lined pond that gets dumped into the tipping bunker…The tipping bunker is cement.”

Ocejo said if there were serious offences alleged and proved, a stop-work or clean-up order would have been issued.

“It’s a warning letter and Net Zero Waste will be responding.”

Conviction of an offence under the Organic Matter Recycling Regulations can carry a fine of up to $200,000.

Alternatively, the ministry has the power to issue an administrative penalty of up to $10,000.

The ministry will provide close follow-up.

“If you fail to take the necessary actions to restore compliance, you may be subject to escalating enforcement action…The corrective actions will be reviewed by an officer as part of the next inspection,” the letter states.

A spokesperson for the Upper Similkameen Indian Band, which initiated the complaint against Net Zero Waste, was not immediately available for comment.

Related: Compost boss gets hate mail over piles of dead pigs near Princeton

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Andrea DeMeer

About the Author: Andrea DeMeer

Andrea is the publisher of the Similkameen Spotlight.
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