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

Saanich Peninsula Hospital Auxiliary hosts pop-up fundraiser in Sidney

Temporary store to feature unique hand made gifts, collectibles, clothing, books and more

PHOTOS: Small crowd gathers to watch 231-tonne stacker-reclaimer load onto barge crane

The Dynamic Beast barge crane, known for work with Johnson Street Bridge, makes a return

National Drug Drop-Off month aims to reduce substance abuse by house-bound youth

Expert says there is misconception prescribed medication is safe to take

Victoria mayor wants newspaper boxes removed from downtown streets

Mayor Lisa Helps says the boxes are not needed, often filled with garbage

Esquimalt artists take to great outdoors amid coronavirus

Group invites budding, or just willing artists, to join at Saxe Point

Crews work overnight to try to put out wildfire on Pender Island

Fire department and B.C. Wildfire Service crews extinguishing fire in ‘extremely difficult terrain’

Crews work overnight to try to put out wildfire on Pender Island

Fire department and B.C. Wildfire Service crews extinguishing fire in ‘extremely difficult terrain’

Michael Buble among 13 British Columbians to receive Order of B.C.

Ceremony will be delayed to 2021 due to COVID-19

U.S. border communities feel loss of Canadian tourists, shoppers and friends

Restrictions on non-essential travel across the Canada-U.S. border have been in place since March 2`

Rollout of COVID-19 Alert app faces criticism over accessibility

App requires users to have Apple or Android phones made in the last five years, and a relatively new operating system

Alleged impaired driver sparks small wildfire near Lytton after crash: B.C. RCMP

Good Samaritans prevented the blaze from getting out of control

B.C. First Nation adopts ‘digital twinning’ software to better manage territory

Software allows users to visualize what a mountain might look like if the trees on its slopes were logged

Most Read