PFAS

B.C. B.C.

The B.C. The B.C.

Adam Olsen is a B.C. MLA. Green Party.

The solid waste produced by sewage treatment is called biosolids. Although it is cheaper to apply sewage waste on fields and forests, there are increasing concerns that this practice could pollute soil and water with harmful PFAS chemicals.

Maine, in the U.S., recently closed hundreds of farms due to soil contamination with PFAS caused by biosolids that were applied on fields decades earlier. The crisis was so large that Maine banned outdoor application of biosolids, joining other countries such as Germany.

The PFAS class includes thousands of chemicals that are used in products ranging from clothing to firefighting spray. These chemicals do not degrade in nature and are found in the bloodstreams of more than 98 percent of Canadians. They can cause cancer and disrupt the endocrine systems.

The B.C. The B.C.

In June, citing these risks, the B.C. In June , the B.C. However, these concerns don’t seem to include the danger posed by PFAS contamination in biosolids.

According to Philippe Lucas, former Victoria councillor and researcher who was instrumental in pushing for the ban, the province also has been pressing the Capital Regional District, the regional government which includes Victoria, over the past few years to lift a ban imposed on the district’s land because of concerns that the sewage sludge contains toxic chemicals and PFAS.

According to a B.C. Canada’s National Observer has seen a letter sent by Environment Minister George Heyman in 2019 to the CRD’s board. The government asked the district to include land application (for instance, fertilizer/soil conditioner), reclamation (for instance, mines), landfill closing and agriculture. The letter was written in relation to the district’s discussions about the disposal of biosolid waste.

Lucas stated that similar directives are sent to the district despite its prohibition on slathering of sewage sludge onto land.

The B.C. The B.C.

According to the provincial Organic Matter Recycling Regulation, land application of biosolids is only allowed under the supervision of a professional. It must also be performed away from watercourses and reviewed by a regional medical officer who can either deny or add additional conditions.

Olsen and Lucas both noted that the OMRR doesn’t test for PFAS, or any other contaminants such as microplastics.

The Ministry of Environment and Climate Change stated that it was “working on updating the OMRR in order to provide more tools for increasing sampling, monitoring and reporting of contaminants…like PFAS, in the environment and biosolids”.

Olsen slammed Ontario for not backing up its public battle against PFAS manufacturers with concrete actions to reduce their threat to the Province.

He said that “suing companies gave them the positive [news] hits…but they hadn’t done basic things to make sure they were holding themselves accountable to their standards.”

He said that among the “basic things”, he included testing sewage sludge to detect PFASs and other harmful chemicals. Canada and B.C. Regular Tests are conducted to determine whether biosolids have PFAS or other toxic substances, and if they are contaminating drinking water and farmland.

According to data from the federal government, Canadian farmers will apply over 500,000 tons of sewage sludge on their fields by 2020. Canada’s sewage is routinely monitored for harmful chemicals such as heavy metals, toxic bacteria and viruses or chlorine. According to the National Pollutant Release Inventory (a federal database tracking pollution), it is not checked for PFAS or a variety of “emerging” toxins such as microplastics.

This could change. In May of last year, federal officials released an assessment on the health and environment impacts of PFAS. They examined them as a group of chemicals, rather than one by one. This decision could lead to a much wider range of restrictions in the future.

In June, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), responsible for the federal regulation of biosolids, issued an interim standards that prohibits the sale and importation of municipal biosolids with high levels contamination. Importers and producers of biosolids for commercial use will be required to provide a certificate from a third party laboratory that is accredited for PFAS tests. This certification must show compliance with the new standard.

Olsen said that in B.C. the provincial government must continue to fight PFAS contamination, regardless of what the federal government does next. This includes more stringent biosolids testing and safer disposal methods, such as incineration.

“We do not need the federal government doing anything more than they are already doing.” He said that we needed a minister for the environment who was ready to act.