Field contamination was preventable



Re: “Walking on broken glass,” Sophie Woodrooffe, Sept. 7.

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I would like to share my disappointment and frustration with regards to the soil contamination events that occurred during the pre-season preparation of the SD46 fields. I witnessed the severity of the contamination first hand when I picked up my daughters after their first day back on Tuesday, Sept. 4. This is a very unfortunate predicament that could have resulted in personal injury or other health concerns and it may still pose a safety risk to our children if the fields are not completely stripped of the material and re-established.

I am concerned both as a parent and also as a professional agrologist with 20 years of experience working with farmers and all levels of government to develop best management practices for soils management. In my experience, the contamination of our children’s play fields could have been prevented with a more thoughtful approach, such as inspecting the material before purchase, or through the prior consultation with a qualified environmental professional such as a certified landscape technician or a professional agrologist.

The BC Ministry of Environment and Climate Change provides guidelines and strict regulations in order to protect the public and to prevent the contamination of our environment with regards to the purchase and use of soil materials. For example, a licensed commercial composting facility must satisfy the ministry’s OMRR (Organic Material Recycling Regulations). Under OMRR, licensed composting facilities must monitor each batch of compost for temperature over time for a minimum of 35 days to satisfy pathogen/vector/seed destruction. Licensed facilities must also test seven separate samples from each compost batch for fecal coliforms, heavy metals, and foreign material (for example, plastics and sharps must be less than one per cent of dry mass). This analytical work is time consuming and expensive and must be conducted by an ISO-approved, third-party laboratory; however, it ensures safety for human use, plants and the environment.

It is also worth noting that provincially inspected and approved quality compost and soil amendments can be sourced from local businesses right here on the Sunshine Coast. These materials can be viewed, inspected and sampled prior to purchase and land application. While I understand that school budgets are tight, and buying locally is not always the cheapest option, I also happen to think our kids and our planet are worth it.

Peter Doig, Upland Agricultural Consulting Ltd., Sechelt

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