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Kelowna fruit packers hit with another fine

Ellison fruit packinghouse promises to solve effluent discharge issues

A Kelowna fruit packinghouse continues to struggle in its efforts to pacify its neighbours about effluent discharge concerns while trying to meet Ministry of Environment permit standards.

In a statement released by Sandher Fruit Packers, company president Gurtaj Sandher confirmed the company has been accessed a further “administration penalty” from the ministry, reported to be $78,368.

The ministry has also extended a wastewater discharge application process for the effluent discharge until May 10, the third extension this year on the application.

“While we accept the administrative penalty, we wish to once again reiterate, that the limited water that was discharged in the past was used only to wash apples and cherries, has been tested, and poses no risk to public health or the environment,” said Sandher in the statement.

“While we acknowledge that we haven’t always gotten it right, we want to assure our customers and our neighbours that we are working diligently on a permanent solution.”

He also cited some misunderstanding about their water discharge application with the Ministry of the Environment, saying the application is to allow for authorized discharge in unforeseen circumstances like extreme future storms – not on a regular basis.

But Ellison resident Alexandra Wright is not buying that.

Wright organized a petition raising objections about the wastewater discharge application that has collected more than 1,600 signatures and hosted a rural town hall gathering at her farm earlier this spring attended by more than 100 of her Ellison neighbours to share their concerns.

Wright said she has heard of the wastewater discharge permit application delay but has not received formal confirmation of that from the ministry.

But she voiced disappointment to have received an updated permit application from the ministry which calls for Sandher Fruit Packers to discharge 99,000 litres a day, five days a week.

The discharged wastewater, which contains chemical elements, is used to wash fruit for commercial sale.

“The first we heard of the application it was for 41,000 litres a day. Then it was changed to 57,000 litres. Now it is 99,000, so what is the real number?” said Wright.

She said Sandher’s statement has done little to curb their concerns, saying “The only thing that will make this right is to retract the application and get the proper permitting to install a proper septic collection system and stop this.”

Wright added the ministry has “quite frankly not done anything” significant to address the situation, which dates back more than four years, with the fruit packinghouse, located at the intersection of Old Vernon and Scotty Creek roads.

“MLA Norm Letnick took our petition to Victoria and introduced it into the B.C. Legislature so it is on the record but we know in the end that in itself doesn’t do very much,” Wright noted.

But she and her Ellison neighbour supporters are waiting to see the permit application process play out before taking another step, to place public pressure on suppliers to not buy Sandher Fruit Packers products.

READ MORE: Kelowna group opposes packinghouse effluent discharge permit

Barry Gerding

About the Author: Barry Gerding

Senior regional reporter for Black Press Media in the Okanagan. I have been a journalist in the B.C. community newspaper field for 37 years...
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