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 were among the 600,000 that died on Sumas Prairie late November. They were then transported to the Net Zero Waste Eastgate facility, 50 kilometres west from Princeton, in early December.
The Upper Similkameen Indian Band was alerted and sent staff to investigate.
A team of USIB’s natural resource staff visited the site on December 10, and were shocked to see what could be thousands of decomposing pig carcasses. Chief Bonnie Jacobsen wrote a letter to Princeton attached to the agenda package for Monday’s council meeting.
We found that leachate, contaminated water and dead animals were flowing from the facility to the Similkameen River.
The company refutes that.
Mateo Ocejo, Net Zero Waste owner said in a telephone interview Wednesday, “I just want to make it very clear that we aren’t polluting.”
We have monitoring wells available right on our website.
He does not deny that the scene was horrendous.
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. The Agriculture Ministry and the City of Abbotsfords emergency operation centre were unable find any landfills or rendering facilities that would accept the carcasses as cleanup efforts began.
According to Ocejo the carcasses were placed on concrete-lined pads and frozen after they arrived at site in 17 truckloads. The carcasses were frozen until they could be mixed and covered with special roofing tarps. They are now in the process of decomposing.
In two months, new organic material will be added to this mixture and left to compost for another one year before it is ready for sale.
Its a very unique situation. Ocejo said that it is not something that will continue.
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. However, Ocejo said that the facility had enough organic material to be able handle the pig carcasses safely.
He will be visiting the Eastgate facility Friday and invites anyone with concerns about the carcasses of pigs to come by.
The USIB asked Princeton to withdraw its support for the facility and sent its investigators’ findings to the B.C. Ministry of Environment.
In a statement Wednesday, the ministry said that its staff visited the site Dec. 21, to assess compliance with the Environmental Management Act (EMA) and the Organic Matter Recycling Regulation (OMR).
According to the statement the report of the investigators should be made public in the coming days. The ministry also stated that it is working with the USIB on the group’s concerns.
The devastating effects of the recent floods are still evident, concluded the statement. The impact on farmers is especially devastating. As we continue to respond, we expect all animal remains and animals to be treated with respect.