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COMMUNITY UPDATE: ADDRESSING WASTEWATER CONCERNS



March 22, 2024


Community Update: Addressing Wastewater Concerns


We wanted to update the community on an operational challenge experienced at our facility that has recently been referenced in the media. As a family-owned business deeply rooted in the Okanagan, this is something we are taking very seriously and are working with BC’s ministry of environment and the local municipality on.


Recently, several of our neighbours expressed concern about a lingering issue of wastewater, used to wash apples and cherries on our packing line, being discharged into a nearby irrigation ditch when our water management system is over capacity or damaged, as was the case after the extreme cold weather in January.


As a family-owned business in an intensely competitive market, we have been focused on taking care of our customers and growing our business. We realize now that we clearly haven’t devoted enough time to being a good neighbour. That’s going to change.


In recent months, we’ve repaired our wastewater system, implemented measures to reduce water usage, engaged an engineering firm to develop a more comprehensive water management strategy, and brought on new senior leaders with decades of operational experience and the requisite expertise to direct these efforts.


While we acknowledge that we haven’t always gotten it right, we want to assure you that we are making every effort to find a permanent solution and address the concerns raised by our neighbours.


We understand that the complaints raised by some of our neighbours with local media come from a place of genuine concern, but these concerns are unfounded and are based on understandable misunderstandings or false information. For example, the limited wastewater we have discharged is not sewage — it is water used only to wash apples and cherries, is tested regularly, and poses absolutely no risk to public health or the environment.


As we have been working with the province and municipal engineers to resolve the immediate issues, we are also exploring ways to replace and modernize our entire wastewater management system in the future.


Over the coming days and weeks, we will continue to reach out to the community and proactively share what we are doing to improve our environmental stewardship and responsibly manage our wastewater system.


We truly value the community that has sustained our business for more than three decades and are fully dedicated to ensuring we are both in full compliance with provincial regulations and implementing best practices to ensure the long-term sustainability of our operations.


Gurtaj Sandher

President

Sandher Fruit Packers


Appendix


Tank Repairs


Our current system has 3 tanks before moving the water into a discharge field, in the picture below, a horizontal infeed pipe to the secondary tank (liquids) is above the frost line. During the cold snap, this pipe froze and that damaged the internal filter. This damage didn’t allow water to move into the third tank (lift station), which caused an overflow of discharge water.


The second picture shows that the infeed pipe has been capped and rerouted to the primary tank (solids), where the line is below the frost line and capacity is greater. Although this was a simple repair, we had to work with the Ministry and WorkSafe to ensure that we were following both environmental protocols as well as keeping our employees safe from exposure risks. This unfortunately delayed the repair until the site was deemed safe and risk free.




Image 1: Damaged, leaking filter from January                            Image 2: Repaired and rerouted




Images 3 & 4: Taken after repairs and demonstrate that there is no longer any pooling water

 


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