Fruit packing company in Kelowna, B.C., fined $78K for effluent discharge – Okanagan

An Okanagan fruit company has been fined for discharging effluent from a failed septic field into a nearby ditch.
The Ministry of Environment says Sandher Fruit Packers in Kelowna was fined $78,368 following an inspection in February at its plant along Old Vernon Road.The fine marks the third time since 2022 that the company has faced provincial scrutiny, including a $32,000 fine for discharging wastewater from August 2019 to April 2022.

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“Ministry compliance and enforcement staff continue to monitor Sandher closely,” the ministry said in an emailed statement to Global News. Story continues below advertisement

Neighbours near the fruit packing plant have complained about smells emanating from the plant at various times.In March, around 100 residents gathered after reading in a local newspaper that Sandher Fruit Packers had applied to discharge even more fruit-washing effluent into the ditches along Old Vernon Road.

The environmental protection notice that was printed in the Feb. 29 edition of the Kelowna Capital News.

The application requested year-round permission to discharge up to 203 cubic metres weekly, an amount equivalent to about 2,800 wheelbarrows.

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Area resident Alexandra Wright, who organized the meeting on her property (Sweet Cherry Stables), said Sandher’s application would give it the right to discharge various chemicals, including phosphoric acid, bleach, isopropanol and resin acids.

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The materials, she said, will spill into “culverts, farmlands and likely aquifers that provide drinking water and irrigation to local farms.” Story continues below advertisement

As of Friday, an online petition against the application had garnered 1,654 signatures.The Ministry of Environment said the company’s application is still being discussed.The ministry said applicants normally have three years to submit information related to the request, but this one was reduced to six months due to “ongoing environmental compliance concerns.”The application was submitted on March 4 but some information was missing. The company has until Friday, May 10, to update its application.“They have been informed that failure to provide the required information may result in the application being rejected due to lack of information,” the ministry said.“Once all required information has been submitted, a fulsome technical review of the application and consultation with First Nations will be completed by ministry staff.”

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The ministry noted that waste discharge permits need to be publicly posted, but anyone who could be adversely affected can notify the province about their concerns. Story continues below advertisement

The status of waste discharge applications is available online.The ministry also said suspected polluters can be reported by calling the RAPP (Report All Poachers and Polluters) line at 1-877-952-7277.In 2019, Sandher Fruit Packers received stop-work orders and was fined for starting construction on a massive building without appropriate permits.The regional district said the company began construction before submitting engineered drawings and site plans.The company was issued one fine of $100 for the initial stop-work order, followed by two fines of $150.Sandher was also fined $575 by the Conservation Officer Service in 2018 for introducing waste from a prescribed industry, trade or business.

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In related news, Sander Fruit Packers posted a new “community update”  regarding wastewater concerns on its website this week. Story continues below advertisement

“We have read the determination from the province. We accept their determination and intend to fully comply,” reads a statement dated April 17 from president Gurtaj Sandher.The update claims that “while we accept the administrative penalty, we wish to once again reiterate, 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.”In its application, Sandher Fruit Packers listed the chemicals that it wants to discharge into the nearby ditch.One of them is Shield Brite, which is a fungicide coating for stone fruit. On its data sheet, which is available online, it says to “avoid discharge into drains, water courses or onto the ground. Do not discharge into lakes, streams, ponds or public waters.”Global News has reached out to Sander Fruit Packers for comment. 

&copy 2024 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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