Friday, April 25, 2014

Exactly, Jennifer!

Jennifer Smith's editorial in Friday's Morning Star was entitled "Blue Box Blues".

She basically read my mind.

So here are a few excerpts concerning MMBC's "new" recycling policy that takes effect May 29th in Vernon and surrounding area, via Emterra Environmental.  Here's Emterra's founder and company details.

"Despite efforts to win us over with flashy new blue boxes, there doesn't seem to be a lot of excitement over the new recycling system in town."

"When I compare the list to the items I already recycle,
I actually see a reduction..."
Jennifer Smith, reporter with The Morning Star
Me too, Jennifer.
And that's at the core of the issue.

"All in all, I question the need for this new system (which also includes some major issues for producers, but that's a whole 'nother column).  The recycling service we had worked wonderfully.  Even though the new system is free to residents, the former service was a small expense for taxpayers ($20 for a full year is pretty affordable).  It worked well, so why fix it?"

My point is that there's nary a mention of what will happen to the former recycling center employees?  Clients of Venture Training Center in Vernon found meaningful employment through Encorp Recycling...will they be kept on by Emterra?  Not a word about that.

And there ARE fewer items that will be allowed through the new system, despite what the flashy brochure that arrived with the blue boxes promotes.

For instance, plastic retail bags and plastic overwrap and plastic dry cleaner bags and plastic fruit/vegetable bags are no longer allowed, and residents are encouraged to take them to a recycling depot.

Yeah, right...sure!
They'll end up back in the garbage where they were prior to Encorp's current recycling plan.

So will potato chip bags, despite being 100% aluminum foil.
So will plastic bags and plastic overwrap, despite being 100% plastic.

Plastic overwrap--like plastic bags--are 100% plastic, but not allowed under MMBC.  Neither are potato chip bags!

These plastic beverage cups may (or may not) be allowed, despite bearing the Recycle trademark.
So why aren't previously-accepted recyclables allowed?
Well, maybe it's because the "industry-led" program's owners don't make those products?
Could that be?

Let's have a look to see who the directors (originators) of the "brought to you by industry" MMBC program are: 
John Coyne, Chair of Unilever Canada (multinational/Anglo-Dutch)
Denis Brisebois, Treasurer, Metro (multinational/Canadian)
Christine Bome, Walmart (multinational/American)
Scott Bonikowsky, Tim Hortons Inc. (multinational/Canadian)
Robert Chant, Loblaw Companies Limited (Canadian)
Dave Moran, Coca Cola Refreshments Canada (multinational/American)
Gord Meyer, Procter & Gamble (multinational/American)

Kelvin McCulloch of Buckerfields (April 2/14 story here) isn't the only one against the new program. 
In a previous story, we outlined that the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (April 23/14 story here) is challenging the onerous dollar amounts that are being charged to companies ... companies obviously not on the board!
We've heard some large companies got a bill for $300,000!!!!

By the way, there's no Recycling trademark on their brochure! 

Local governments are reluctant to reduce our taxes by $20 in case the plan blows up, which it perhaps will, especially if--and it's a big if--local workers are no longer drawn from Venture Training.  And if people are outraged enough to do something about that!

And a bunch of folks have voiced discontent over "Ontario dictating what happens in British Columbia".
A few have added the word "again" to that comment.

Frankly, most folks are surprised that the B.C. government has allowed Multi-Material B.C. to ram this through without input from industry in British Columbia.  Good point.

"With fewer items that can go to the curb, they should rename themselves Mini-Material B.C.," offers Kia.

"We are told that the price of liberty is eternal vigilance.
So is he price of unity."  Philip W. Wilson

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Can Treated Wastewater Contribute to Desertification?

Yesterday's editorial from Richard Rolke of the Morning Star, entitled "Opportunities Expanding" dealt with allowing treated wastewater to be used on food crops, and that the B.C. Ministry of Health is slow to "get with the program".

We need to ask "is there a long-term cost to soil health, even if it's deemed safe for consumption?"

"The murder of the soil...actually took years."
Golf 2013, H2O

My recent blog entry (on Greater Vernon's $70 million water referendum this Fall) contemplated only whether there could be long-term effects of using chlorinated water--soon to be also filtered if the referendum succeeds.  I basically mused whether soil bacteria and myccorhizae would suffer from the chlorine, and whether studies--one way or the other--were available.

Rolke's story detailed that California and Florida--on whom we Canadians rely for tomatoes in winter and citrus year-round--were already applying treated wastewater to food crops:  "...apples, grapes, asparagus, lettuce, peaches, peppers, pistachios, cauliflower, celery and a host of other fruits and vegetables". 

"The results of the five-year study have indicated that use of tertiary treated waste water for food crop irrigation is safe and acceptable," according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

And California has even surpassed state and federal standards, making the product safe to drink!

So, imagine my surprise when I happened on this phrase in a publication:  "For golf superintendents, though, reclaimed water is not problem-free.  Processed waste can be high in nitrogen and phosphates, which act like fertilizer, and superintendents have to manage the change, both on their turf and in their storage ponds."

The worst news was yet to come:  "Reclaimed water can also be high in salts, which can accumulate in the soil and can damage turf and trees (...poor health of the surrounding trees was a consequence of the high salt content of the golf club's irrigation water).

The next sentence was the clincher:  "The murder (of the soil), if that's what it was, actually took years."
(H2O, source 2013).

"Salt remediation--in which contaminated soil is treated almost like toxic waste--is expensive.  Salt-tolerant turf can actually make a golf club's long-term water-related challenges more dire, by concealing soil problems until affordable solutions are no longer possible."

So, let's forget golf courses.
Consider effluent applied to food crops, which is what writer Rolke suggests the B.C. Ministry of Health is slow to approve.

We've all seen the alkaline lakeshores of watercourses around the Kamloops area, where the whitish shores are evidence of the natural process when water evaporates, leaving salt behind.

As salt levels in soil increase, degradation of soils and vegetation occurs.

So, while I can't find research articles on the effects of applying chlorinated water to soil, there are indeed scholarly studies about the effects of using treated effluenthere

Maybe the Okanagan shouldn't encourage Desertification!

"Seems chlorinated water isn't as big a deal compared to effluent after all," offers Kia.

...and then there's pharmaceuticals residue...

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

MMBC Didn't Dot Their I's or Cross their T's

It started with Kelvin McCulloch's letter to the editor in Vernon's Morning Star.
He's the CEO of Buckerfield's and is mad as a hatter at the MMBC "appointment" by government to handle British Columbia's recycling.

Today's Morning Star had the following article by Black Press writer Jeff Nagel about the fallout from this program since its announced launch (to take effect May 19, 2014).

"Business opponents of Multi Material BC are planning a court challenge to reverse the takeover of B.C.'s curbside recycling system by the stewardship agency.

They continue to urge the provincial government to freeze the new MMBC system before it takes effect May 19, but are also laying the groundwork for a legal battle.

Kelvin McCulloch, the CEO of the Buckerfield's chain of farm supply stores, is urging other businesses to sign and submit their MMBC contract but then give notice to the government that they won't pay fees or otherwise cooperate with the new system to collect packaging and printed paper.

McCulloch intends to gather opt-out letters from numerous businesses across B.C. and deliver them to the province.

If the MMBC rollout continues, he said, they will argue in court that the MMBC contracts were invalid and they were coerced to join the government-created recycling monopoly.

'We're fairly confident at this point it will be struck down," McCulloch said.  'No company in their right mind would sign that contract of their own free will.'

The province contends MMBC is voluntary and various industries could instead form their own separate waste-collecting organization.

That option is not practical or reasonable, McCulloch said.

'The suggestion that we are able to launch or(sic) stewardship program independent of MMBC is a sham.'

The MMBC program aims to transfer recycling costs from municipal taxpayers to the producers who generate packaging and printed paper, while collecting more containers and material types than before.

But many businesses argue they're unfairly compelled to pay far higher fees than a similar system run in Ontario.

Critics say MMBC's three-member interim board is controlled by executives with multinational firms like Unilever and Proctor and Gamble who have manipulated the launch of the new program to their benefit rather than the interests of most B.C. businesses.

Questioned by the NDP recently, Environment Minister Mary Polak said she expected a more representative 15-member permanent board to be named soon after MMBC's launch.

Polak said it's logical the biggest industries that pay the most into MMBC get a large role.

A new advisory council was also recently unveiled by MMBC with reps from several B.C. business groups, but critics say it has no real power.

Pausing the program and the payment of fees by member businesses would cut off the money MMBC will send to most local cities that agreed to continue curbside pickup.

"Any delay in implementation for those communities would mean a loss of that savings," Polak said, adding many municipalities have already budgeted to receive promised MMBC payments.

She said examples of those amounts are $1.5 million a year coming to Richmond and $917,000 to Nanaimo.

Mike Klassen, B.C. director of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, said he's not aware of any cities reducing their property taxes as a result of the expected MMBC savings.

"That's one of the things that's been most misleading -- the idea that this was going to save money for the general taxpayer," he said.

Klassen argues consumers will pay twice -- their local taxes won't go down but they'll also pay higher retail prices as businesses pass along the MMBC charges.

He said most mayors and councils are being cautious and aren't spending MMBC savings until they actually arrive -- meaning there's still opportunity to freeze the rollout.

"That suggests to me they're also very wary of the program and have a fallback program in case things don't work," Klassen said.

"The world doesn't all of a sudden turn upside down if we pause this program and take some time to reflect on how to do this well."

Small businesses with single storefronts have been exempted by the province from MMBC's requirements.

But Klassen said franchisees don't qualify, leaving hundreds of small businesses like meat shops and Subway sandwich outlets facing hefty costs."

"Free will is a term seldom used to denote waste management," adds Kia, "ask anyone in New York."

So, how much will this cost your business?  CFIB has a descriptive sheet  here.    Costs by weight?  here.

A $200,000 fine?  Yup, apparently.

"Or they'll break your knees," offers Kia solemnly.


Friday, April 18, 2014

Arsehole Neighbour

There are good neighbours.
And the other kind.

Here's "ours", burning on Good Friday (today), a holiday, when people are out on the golf course.

Directly downwind of neighbour's burn is a foursome at #6 Teebox.

The entire top half of the golf course is affected by the smoke.  

Reminds me of a certain men's night back in 2008 when the same neighbour--at 7:30 pm when all golfers were inside the clubhouse for prizes--had another open burn, albeit kinda late in the day (burn piles aren't allowed to be re-lit after 4 p.m.)


Turns out the fire marshall happened to be here that men's night.
He took some nice photos with his camera too.

Everyone was evacuated outside when smoke entered the clubhouse.

"Once an arsehole, always an arsehole," summarizes Kia.

The Fire Marshall said there's no law against stupidity.
Or damaging one's own reputation with 75 people!

$70 Million Referendum

"I don't know if the electorate is going to pass this one," Coldstream mayor Jim Garlick is quoted in today's Morning Star.

Subtle hint of how Garlick would like it to go?

Voters should wake up and realize that no peer review has been conducted.
Or is likely to be, based on Greater Vernon Advisory Committee members' votes. 
Councillor Kiss' request for a peer review was recently denied by directors (April 9th story here).
And March 8th story here.

At issue is Interior Health Authority's demand that Duteau Creek (June 17th, 2013 story here) water treatment plant--which currently chlorinates water, almost all of which goes onto crops and fields--now also filter the water which goes onto crops and fields.

Anybody have a crystal ball?
Filter that water?
We don't even want to chlorinate it! 
But chlorinate it we do.

Where are the studies that show we should not irrigate with chlorinated water?

Where are the professors from universities, waving 200-page reports of the damage that will occur if we do?
Surely such studies exist.
Well, here's one:  Inactivation of Microbes by Chlorine.
It has news regarding disinfection, and that is a good thing.

But how about membrane damage?
Humans have membranes, so is that welcome news?
Certainly not.
Someone must be able to forecast over the long term the environmental damage to soil organisms and the water table from chlorinated water used for irrigation?
What does chlorinated water do to mycorrhizae?  
How about the long term damage to people's health, as they eat fruits and vegetables from their orchards and gardens irrigated with chlorinated water.

The only way that the Interior Health Authority's demand to filter water at Duteau Creek--and the fact that chlorination of that water has already been forced on residents--is to see November's water referendum fail.

Fail miserably.

"The referendum should be on diluting the IHA's powers," attests Kia.

Especially since they're not bringing a penny to the table.

Oh...and Kia won't even drink the chlorinated water ... until it has sat for several hours, dissolving its poison into the air.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Ahhhhh, Spring

...and the smell of biosolids is in the air.

With an artful combination of gin/tonic and old outhouse smells emanating from the field application across the street, golfers are welcomed to Highlands Golf .  "It's downright awful," said a lady yesterday.

Whew!...wonder if the operator is wearing a respirator *gasp*

Maybe they'll be done soon.
Hope it doesn't rain on that slurry...

It's spring.

Time to open up the palms...yup, palm trees, here.

Carpenter Hughie removes the heated palm hut from the Trachycarpus fortunei...on St. Patrick's Day.

The Trachy came through winter unscathed...and why not:  it had electric heat!
Then the planting of the Canary Island Date Palm at the clubhouse patio:


A couple of little palms were planted.  At left is a Sabal; to the right of the mattock tool is a Chamaerops humilis.


...and Hughie admiring the flowering Jade Tree (almost 40 years old...the tree, not Hughie!) 
The Yucca rostrata "Sappire Skies" came through winter, unheated, but with a plastic cover to keep them dry, and are already growing.


Two Washingtonia filifera palms (just being unwrapped).  They did fine, albeit with a bit of fungus damage, which will be pruned off.


The little Brahea armata did well over winter, with only a plastic (vapour barrier) cover and C-9 Christmas lights for heat, on a T-3 thermocube.  The Brahea has grown a couple of inches since the photo was taken.


Inside the house this winter, the Bird of Paradise shot up a lovely flower:


And the Cymbidium orchid was lovely.


Both of the above are now enjoying the outdoors at the clubhouse patio.

And here's Kia, waking up from those long winter naps...ready to greet golfers:


"Yawn, OK let's get going," says Kia, refreshed.

Yippeeeee, spring.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Kiss Denied Water Plan Review

Councillor Kiss asked for a review of the $70 million Master Water Plan after he had been given "permission" to meet privately with water consultants.

Well, that's been quashed by a majority vote of the Greater Vernon Advisory Committee members.

The Morning Star reported Kiss' comment:  "We owe it to our customers to look at the master water plan again so what we're getting for our $70 million is what the community wants."

He's concerned that full separation of agricultural (from domestic) customers won't occur...a very expensive proposition. 

But the Greater Vernon Advisory Committee members seem to like the idea of putting chlorinated--and soon, filtered--water on crops and golf courses.

Mike Macnabb, a director, condones the current plan: "We have no idea of what future regulations will be.  It could be that water on orchards must be treated," he said.

Interesting proposition, folks.

I know of which I speak:  Many people will recall we had an orchard here for many years, ~1,100 apple trees that we planted, sold commercially to wholesalers via our own packinghouse, with the culled apples from the packing line going into our juiceplant, then into stainless steel refrigerated tanks for farmgate sales.

So it's with considerable cynicism I react to "future regulations for treated water on orchards".

To be very blunt, we could NEVER pick an apple up from the ground for our juicing operation.  Why?  Well, for those people with a strong stomach, here's why:  pickers and pruners routinely--I'll use two  indelicate words--shit and pissed--right where they were working.  No matter there was a port-a-potty fifty feet away.  Nope.  Didn't matter.

Yup.  shit and pissed. 
At pruning season late winter.
During picking season in September. 

But the Advisory Committee thinks it's a good idea to put chlorinated irrigation water on an orchard--and soon, filtered water--on that orchard, because it's safer.

Here's another story.
From a contractor who was hired to do some land levelling work with his bobcat in an orchard not too far from here.  The contractor recalled to me personally that he hadn't done more than a 50-foot swath of levelling when he noticed "a strange looking pile" ahead.  Worried it might include an irrigation hose bib, he got off the bobcat and walked forward.

He said he almost threw up when he had poked around with the toe of his boot.

There, barely an inch buried in the heap, were bones--animal bones (likely a goat or calf)--and flimsy paper blew in the wind.  After withdrawing his boot, he realized he was standing on a pile of human--yes human--excrement.  "The stench was overpowering; I gagged till I couldn't breath any more," he said.

He cleaned his boots in the grass as well as he could.
And drove down the driveway, never to return.
He did not reply to the landowner's phone calls that night.

Another fine orchard environment, where Advisory Committee Members are so concerned about health that they want to have the orchard irrigate with not only chlorinated water, but soon also filtered water.

"The orchard pickers and pruners can wipe with clean water when they're done," offers Kia.

How nice.
If they wipe at all.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Buck Them, Buckerfields!

We'll say it right up front.

Kudos to Buckerfields CEO Kelvin McCulloch for thoroughly examining the province's new MMBC Recycling program.

And then having the courage of his conviction to make his decision.
And write this letter to the editor:

"A few months back, I received a notification which advised me that I had to declare whether Buckerfields was a producer of printed paper or packaging material. 

If so, we would have to implement an approved stewardship plan to deal with the material.  Otherwise we would have to jooin another stewardship plan and pay fees to that planholder.  I thought it was a scam.  But I looked into it further and determined there was indeed regulatory provisions in effect which stated this very thing, and according to the regulations, Buckerfields is now a producer of printed paper and packaging material, with the best example being our Buckerfields feed bags.

I then discussed the alternatives with a Ministry of Environment official and came to realize that we had no choice but to join the only approved stewardship plan in the province, Multi Material BC (MMBC).

We signed the MMBC contract.  But we also read it.  And it stated that MMBC had to file audited financial statements on its website.  I recently went to the website and there are no audited financial statements.

Now, several months later, I have discovered the following:

  • MMBC is a corporation under the Societies Act comprised of three directors, two of which live in Ontario.  None of the directors have public sector credentials.  All of the directors represent large corporate interests. 
  • (see Addendum below*)
  • MMBC is not accountable to any government agency, appointed official, elected official or any other government body other than the Registrar of Companies under the Societies Act.
  • MMBC is not governed by the province's Financial Administration Act which sets out the rules for the administration of all public money.
"...I have to spend my time trying to
 revive democratic processes retroactively.
 I find it appalling."
  • None of the money collected by MMBC, including the fees Buckerfields is supposed to pay, go to the public accounts of the province or any other government organization.
  • MMBC is not subject to oversight by the auditor general of B.C.
  • Under MMBC's stewardship plan, as approved by the provincial government, MMBC has the authority to charge companies like Buckerfields unlimited fees based on whatever MMBC spends, regardless of what the actuall costs are to recycle our feed bags and regardless of the fact that we already pay municipal taxes in all eight of our locations.
  • MMBC has the authority to come into any municipality in the province and offer financial incentives to the locally elected government to do what MMBC wants in the area of waste collection and recycling; if the locally elected government refuses, MMBC has the authority to do what it wants anyway.
"...we ain't paying a dime to MMBC,
 and neither should anyone else."
  • The municipal governments of the province do not know the background of MMBC and don't yet realize the fees that MMBC is charging to Buckerfields and all the other companies amounts to double taxation.
  • The municipal governments are going to have to give up that tax base they have for waste collection and recycling because the shift to producers paying directly for waste collection and recycling eliminates the need and justification for consumers, i.e. property taxpayers to pay for these services through the municipalities.
  • The provincial government did not consult with the municipal governments or the public, but companies like Buckerfields are pointing it out because until it is resolved, we are being taxed twice for the same service and residential taxpayers (including me) are being taxed for something that someone else is actually paying for.
  • Taxpayers and municipal governments were not consulted as to whether they really want to shift the financing and control of municipal waste and recycling services out of the municipal jurisdiction, that is, the jurisdiction of democratically elected municipal officials into the hands of a corporation under the Societies Act that is accountable to no one and is outside the jurisdiction of the provincial auditor general.
  • Taxpayers and voters are unaware that the fees being charged by MMBC are so onerous that they will cause newspaper closures and job losses of 300 to 500 in the newspaper industry in B.C., even though recycled newsprint is very valuable.   
In finding all of this out, I lament the fact that none of this was introduced into the Legislature for proper debate because it means that instead of spending my days managing the sale of chicks and garden supplies at Buckerfields, I have to spend my time trying to revive democratic processes retroactively.  I find it appalling.

My position as of the time of this writing is this...we ain't paying a dime to MMBC, and neither should anyone else, not until:
  • The provincial government reconciles what it is doing with the municipal governments and municipal taxpayers so taxpayers don't have to pay twice.
  • The provincial government takes back the legislation which calls us producers and blames us for the choices made by manufacturers and indeed consumers that are completely outside of our control.
  • Any money charged under the auspices of the recycling regulation are included in the public accounts of the province and subject to the provisions of the Financial Administration Act and the Auditor General Act.
  • Whatever is going to be done is introduced into the legislative assembly in the form of a bill so that the proper public debate can occur.
  • Insofar as MMBC has not filed its audited financial statements since inception, and the period of time not reported spans more than two years, and insofar as MMBC is actually a taxing and funding agency, there be an independent public enquiry into the financial operations, sources and uses of funds, contractual procedures and expenditures of MMBC.
No, Buckerfields is not paying a dime until this cash and power grab is unraveled and revealed for what it is.

One final word.  Ninety-six percent of all printed paper and packaging material is already being picked up or deposited into municipality financed facilities.  Despite what MMBC is saying, at least 53 per cent of that is already being recycled and it is very likely that that number was seriously understated to give the government a reason for its MMBC cash and power grab.

In reality, there is no basis for setting up a recycling dictatorship and charging punitive fees to companies like Buckerfields at all.  Recycling is a booming business with rapidly increasing prices of marketable commodities.  Could that be why the board of MMBC is all big business and outside the jurisdiction ofo the auditor general?

We don't have to change a thing to see recycling take off in B.C., in the hands of our elected muncipal officials.  We need to send the MMBC regime to the recycle bin."
       Kelvin McCulloch, CEO, Buckerfields

This blog writer knew something stank to high heaven when the MMBC program first announced it was giving a million bucks to each of 18 regional districts in B.C. (February story here).

Thank you for your letter, Kelvin McCulloch.

"Two things," offers Kia.  "MMBC is funded by the Mafia...and Kelvin McCulloch is more qualified than Christy Clark to be BC Premier."

As usual, you're correct, Kia...on both.

The "large corporate interests" Mr. McCulloch referred to are:
John Coyne, Chair, Unilever Canada;
Denis Brisebois, Treasurer, Metro;
Christine Bome, Walmart,
Scott Bonikowsky, Tim Hortons Inc.;
Robert Chant, Loblaw Companies Limited;
Dave Moran, Coca Cola Refreshments Canada;
Gord Meyer, Procter & Gamble.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The Disappearing Concrete Picnic Tables

Definitely an enigma.

Even the owner of Leko Precast, the manufacturer of the two concrete picnic tables at Highlands Golf, is puzzled by what's happening.  The tables have been on Highlands patio since delivery by the company in mid-2001.

"We're breaking up, we're breaking up" Shakespeare scrapper reminds us.
Not funny.

Back in 2004 or 2005 when the Leko Precast owner was golfing here, I showed him the rough/porous surface of the picnic tables (the damaged two corners were just beginning to crumble then).  He said "oh yes, we had always planned to come back and refinish these...", obviously forgetting until I called again several years later.

After several more complaints, he suggested to me that a golfer may have hit the corners of both tables with a golf club.  I told him I doubted that, as the patio is 100% visible to me at the front desk at all times.  And even IF someone had hit it with a golf club, why would the concrete be crumbling FROM THE INSIDE?

So, then in 2012 (I think), the owner of Leko Precast sent his man out to sand the top of a very rough table, after which he applied a concrete sealant.  He said he would leave the bucket of sealant for my staff to do the other table.  So we did.

Now it's spring 2014 and the photos above were taken last week.
Nothing seems to stop the disintegration--from inside.

The sealant we applied left a bright shiny hard film over the surface.
But again, the bright shiny hard film has cracked and fallen, revealing further disintegration and powdery rocks showing, all of which continue to crumble.

the Concrete Sealant

Leko Precast indicated their concrete picnic tables are located in government campsites and parks, and that "this has never occurred on any of those". 

Yeah, well, it has.
To the two concrete picnic tables at Highlands Golf.

Photos 2 and 3 (in the set of four above) clearly show the smooth hard sealant, but the little stones inside are surrounded by "powder" and that continues to crumble, year after year.

It's an enigma for sure.

"Shoddy construction is what I call it," says Kia.