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.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Highway 1 to close near Revelstoke for avalanche control

Road is expected to remain closed between 2:30 p.m. and 4:00 p.m.

Grizzlies beat Rockets in close game

Andy Siegel Special to the Review It was a packed house high… Continue reading

RCMP to review fatal Field train derailment investigation after evidence points to ‘cover up’

The derailment, which occurred on Feb. 4, 2019, killed three men from Calgary

‘Every recipe tells a story’: New Revelstoke cookbook released

The authors say it’s the first of its kind

Feds preparing plane to fly Canadians out of Wuhan, once China gives OK

160 Canadians have asked for help to leave province at centre of coronavirus outbreak

Southern resident orca L41 considered missing and feared dead

The orca was last spotted in August 2019 when photographed in western Strait of Juan de Fuca

‘I am so sorry’: Stolen Baby Bear statue reunited with Mama, Papa Bear in B.C. town

Culprit left it near the Henry Road roundabout in Chemainus with a note attached

Compost comeback in North Okanagan

City of Vernon councillors approve $27K Compost Bin Pilot Program Phase two

‘Critically low’ caribou population prompts wolf cull in the Chilcotin

Itcha-Ilgachuz herd numbers down to 385, from 2,800 in 2003

Former Shuswap resident killed in Alberta accident was expectant father

Geordie Murray described as ‘wonderful husband, brother son and friend’

Off-duty B.C. Mountie takes down would-be ice cream thief

Suspect attempted to steal Dilly Bars from Dairy Queen location on Sunday

Nanaimo man hit with pole in dispute over off-leash dog

RCMP say no charges recommended at this time

Most Read