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

The Fernie Academy hockey players sign to play in the NA3HL

Dylan Baker, Chris Consolozio, and Bowen Arola continue their hockey careers in the NA3HL

Rivers, creeks flooding across the East Kootenay due to rainstorm

Residents evacuated in Fairmont, other properties on alert due to debris flow concerns

Southeast Kootenay school district set to reopen next week

Individual schools have creative timetables and schedules in order to adhere to public health orders

BC bats don’t spread COVID-19 says Kootenay Bat Project

Misinformation can lead to problems for bats, project says

Fernie SAR responds to two calls this weekend

The calls reported an injured mountain biker and an abandoned kayak

VIDEO: A Vancouver Island black bear takes weekend nap in eagle tree

Videos captured by Terry Eissfeldt shows the bear arriving Saturday night and sleeping in on Sunday

NDP getting COVID-19 wage subsidy ‘indirectly,’ B.C. Liberal leader says

B.C. NDP says Andrew Wilkinson is wrong about federal link

Parent, superintendent, trustee report smooth return to classrooms in B.C.

The biggest challenge is convincing families that it’s safe, some say

189 homes in Grand Forks area given evacuation orders

Homes are in the Nursery, Grand Forks Airport, Gilpin Rd., Johnson Flats and Granby Rd. areas

Introducing the West Coast Traveller: A voyage of the mind

Top armchair travel content for Alaska, Yukon, BC, Alberta, Washington, Oregon and California!

George Floyd asphyxiated by sustained pressure: family autopsy

Death sparked a wave of protests across the U.S. and abroad

COVID-19: B.C. commercial landlords can’t evict if they decline rent assistance

Emergency order ‘incentive’ for federal program, Carole James says

Investigators probe death of CN employee at Surrey rail yard

Transportation Safety Board is investigating an ‘occurrence that took place during switching operations’

Most Read