The carcasses of thousands of pigs that drowned at Fraser Valley farms during the flood of last year are being made into compost at a Princeton facility. The owner strongly denies any allegations that the carcasses pose a threat the environment.
The pigs, who were among 600,000 animals that had died on Sumas Prairie in November, were transported to the Net Zero Waste Eastgate facility 50 km west of Princeton in early Dec.
This attracted the attention of the Upper Similkameen Indian Band who sent staff to investigate.
Chief Bonnie Jacobsen, a USIB natural resource team, visited the site Dec. 10 and were alarmed by the discovery of thousands of decomposing pig carcasses. This letter was attached to the agenda package for Monday’s council meeting.
We discovered that the facility was leaking contaminated water and leachate into the Similkameen River area. This led to a large number of dead animals.
The company denies this.
Mateo Ocejo, Net Zero Waste owner, stated in a telephone interview Wednesday that he wanted to make it clear that they are not polluting.
We have monitoring wells available right on our website.
He doesn’t deny that the scene was horrific.
Ocejo, who is an engineer by trade, says that looking at thousands of dead pork in a pile will make it look like a horror movie.
He explained that Net Zero Waste was the one who took the carcasses on the request of B.C. As cleanup efforts began, the Agriculture Ministry and City of Abbotsfords emergency management centre were unable to locate any rendering facilities or landfills that would take the carcasses.
According to Ocejo, the carcasses arrived frozen in 17 truckloads. They were then placed on a concrete-lined pad. The carcasses were frozen until they could be mixed and covered with special roofing tarps. They are now in the process of decomposing.
The mix will be added to with fresh organic material in approximately two months. After that, the product will be left to compost for another year before it is available for sale.
Its a very unique situation. Ocejo stated that this is not a situation that will be repeated.
One of five Net Zero Wastes facilities in Eastgate was once used for mushroom compost production. However, the operation has been dormant since then.
Net Zero Waste, in partnership with the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen, was awarded a $4-million government grant in late 2019 to upgrade the facility so that it can receive food waste from around B.C.
Ocejo claimed that the upgrades were stalled because of COVID-19. However, the facility had enough organic material on site to safely handle the carcasses of pigs.
He will be visiting the Eastgate facility Friday and invites anyone with concerns about the carcasses of pigs to come by.
The USIB, who asked Princeton to end its support for this facility, sent its investigators’ findings and recommendations to the B.C. Ministry of Environment.
In a statement Wednesday, ministry officials confirmed that they had visited the site Dec. 21 in order to assess its compliance with the Organic Matter Recycling Regulation and the Environmental Management Act.
According to the statement, the investigators report will be made public within the next few days. The ministry is working with USIB to address the concerns of that group.