A view of the logged slope at the Turtle Valley Bison Ranch where a mix of biosolids and soil will be applied to make terraced surfaces for growing animal feed. (Jim Elliot/Salmon Arm Observer)

Bison ranch owners weigh in on biosolids controversy

Plan in place to make a logged slope suitable for planting by applying treated sewer sludge

The owners of a Shuswap ranch where a controversial biosolids application is planned want to assure those who have been protesting the project that the health of the environment is not being ignored.

Conrad and Nikki Schiebel, the owners of the Turtle Valley Bison Ranch, say they hope further information will convince their neighbours who are protesting and those who have vandalized their property to stand down. The Schiebels said concern for the health of the watershed, their livestock and other environmental concerns were taken into account when accepting the biosolids onto their property.

Biosolids are treated sewage sludge which can be added to soil. The biosolids being applied to the Turtle Valley Bison Ranch originate from Kamloops. The goal of the application on the ranch is to turn a recently-logged slope into usable farmland.

Read More: Letter: Arrow Transportation, Turtle Valley Bison Ranch respond to biosolids concerns

Read More: Court decision allows biosolids trucks to roll into Turtle Valley

Before being trucked to the ranch, the biosolids are mixed with wood chips by Arrow Environmental. The Schiebels said the trucks offload the biosolids into an area enclosed by an earthwork berm where it is mixed with soil from the slope using backhoes. They said the plan is to use the mixed soil to create farm-able terraced land on the slope. The mixed soil will be nine per cent biosolids.

Conrad said the application of the manufactured soil will give them an additional 70 acres of usable land for growing feed for the bison.

Concerns expressed by those who oppose the application of the biosolids include the contamination of nearby Chum Lake and Chum Creek, and groundwater beneath the area where the biosolids will be applied. Conrad noted the ranch draws water from Chum Lake for irrigation.

The Schiebels said a professional agrologist is overseeing the project and testing the biosolids and soil mixture to ensure it meets the concentration specified in a project plan. Information on the Biosolid Land Application at the ranch posted on the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy’s website states that a professional overseeing the application has implemented a setback of 60 metres from Chum Creek and 100 metres from Chum Lake, which is over and above the 30 metres specified in B.C.’s Organic Matter Recycling Regulations.

Read More: Letter: Biosolids plan poses risk to lake, creeks and river

Read More: Effectiveness of human waste as fertilizer examined during community meeting

Nikki said they attempted to drill a well on the slope where the biosolids application is planned and the hole went 450 feet deep without reaching water.

After selectively logging the slope to deal with dead trees and to create a fire guard for the rest of the ranch’s property, the Schiebels said it was their intention to plant on the slope to grow feed and to mitigate possible slope stability and runoff issues created by the logging. They found the soil on the slope poor.

The Schiebels said they were initially wary when Arrow approached them with the biosolids plan. Nikki said a look at evidence compiled by scientists who study soil and water changed their minds.

Nikki said her research into the topic has satisfied her that the concentrations of biosolids are small enough that there is no threat to human health.

The ranch’s property has been the subject of vandalism since the biosolids debate began . A sign for the ranch was defaced with profanity, an RV was shot with a paintball gun and most recently broken glass was thrown into the yard of one of the houses on the property.

Along with the protest which has been obstructing truck access to their property which the Schiebels say is well intentioned, the property has been the subject of vandalism. A sign for the Bison Ranch was defaced with profanity, an RV on the property was shot with a paintball gun and most recently broken glass was thrown into the yard of one of the houses.


@SalmonArm
jim.elliot@saobserver.net

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