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Inspection report to be issued on fruit packing plant near Kelowna

Click to play video: 'Ellison residents upset over sewage smell'
Ellison residents upset over sewage smell
WATCH: For the past several weeks, residents of the rural community of Ellison have been complaining about the smell of sewage. Some are pointing the blame at a nearby fruit packing facility – Feb 5, 2024

A fruit company at the centre of a smelly controversy near a Central Okanagan neighbourhood was fined two years ago for releasing wastewater from a septic system and disposal field.

In 2022, the Ministry of Environment levied a $32,000 fine against Sandher Fruit Packers Ltd. for violating waste discharge regulations. According to the ministry, the dates of contravention spanned from Aug. 17, 2019, to April 12, 2022.

“After the cherries and apples are picked, they are taken to the Sandher facility to be washed and packaged,” said the ministry and specifically pointing to the company’s facility at 3231 Old Vernon Rd.

“During the fruit washing process, wastewater is discharged from the facility into (a) disposal field via a septic tank system.”

The ministry said Sandher Fruit Packers does not have authorization to discharge wastewater into the environment.

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“Sandher acknowledged that no authorization had been obtained,” said the ministry. “During the inspection, the Ministry observed that the septic system was malfunctioning and leaking effluent to the ground.”

The ministry also noted that in February 2018, Sandher received a $575 violation ticket for the unauthorized discharge of waste. The ticket was said to be paid on April 25, 2018.

Prior to issuing the $32,000 fine, the ministry said, “Since the unauthorized discharge was first identified in 2017, Sandher has continued to discharge waste into the environment while producing and selling products, resulting in “ongoing growth of the company” to the point where additional property has been purchased to expand the operation.”

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The fine was broken into a base penalty and further penalties:

  • $20,000 (base penalty)
  • $2,000 (previous contraventions or penalties)
  • $2,000 (repeated or continuous contraventions)
  • $4,000 (contravention or failure was deliberate)
  • $4,000 (economic benefit derived from contravention or failure)

The Ministry of Environment says that the $32,000 fine was paid on Aug. 23, 2022.

“Administrative penalties are part of the province’s work to ensure companies comply with environmental protection regulations,” the ministry told Global News on Tuesday afternoon.

More information about provincial-issued fines, warnings and inspections is available online.

Click to play video: 'Fruit growing concerns amid Okanagan drought'
Fruit growing concerns amid Okanagan drought

Recently, more complaints about an ongoing funky smell in the neighbourhood have been aired.

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On Facebook, a video was posted showing water bubbling up from what appears to be a manhole cover. At the time of the video, water and lots of suds could be seen in the nearby ditch.

The company declined to speak on camera, but one representative told Global News that he’s certain the smell people are complaining about has nothing to do with their operations, adding he feels that some residents are unfairly targeting the company.

Global News reached out to regional authorities, with the Ministry of Environment saying the province’s Report All Polluters and Poachers line had received several calls “regarding a waste discharge and odour-related concerns linked to the Sander Fruit Packers site near Kelowna.”

“Provincial environmental protection inspectors have recently visited the site and found effluent from the company’s fruit washing and packing operation had been discharged into the environment,” said the ministry.

“Inspectors are currently finalizing the inspection report and findings. The report will be posted online by the end of this week.”

The ministry also said, “We will be ensuring all applicable regulations that protect the local environment are followed according to our ministry’s compliance and enforcement policies and procedures. All complaints of pollution should be reported to the RAPP line.”

In related news, Sandher Fruit Packers was also issued two stop-work orders in 2019 during the construction of a massive building, estimated to be between 30,000 and 40,000 square feet.

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At the time, the Regional District of Central Okanagan said it issued the stop-work orders because construction started before the company submitted engineered drawings and site plans.

The RDCO confirmed to Global News that the company was issued one fine of $100 for the initial stop-work order, followed by two fines of $150.

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