Fruit packing plant near Kelowna seeks application to discharge wastewater into ditch

File photo of Sandher Fruit Packers near Kelowna, B.C. Global News

A fruit-packing plant in the Central Okanagan that’s been fined in the past for violating waste discharge regulations is apparently applying for a permit to legally dump wastewater into a nearby ditch.

Sandher Fruit Packers is located on Old Vernon Road in Kelowna, in the Scotty Creek neighbourhood.

Recently, area residents have posted multiple times on social media about the plant, and that it’s improperly discharging wastewater into the ditch along Old Vernon Road.

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That resulted in a visit from B.C.’s Ministry of Environment, which told Global News that “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.”

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The ministry said they’d be looking into the matter.

Fast forward to Feb. 29, and a public environmental protection notice appeared in that day’s edition of the Kelowna Capital News.

The notice says “We, Sander Fruit Packers at 3231 Old Vernon Road, intend to submit an application to the director to authorize the discharge of effluent from our fruit packing facility, predominantly packing apples and cherries.”

It continues, saying “the source of discharge is water that was used to wash the fruit.”

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The plant wants to discharge a maximum of 203 cubic metres weekly into the ditch, via its storm system, with discharge occurring year-round.

The ad says cherry production runs from May to September, and apple production runs from September to mid-to-late December.

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However, after late December, “the controlled atmospheric rooms are opened to store the apples and continue the process until early June.”

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

Information about posting public notices is available online.

So, how much volume is 203 cubic metres?

Most people can relate to how much a typical wheelbarrow holds, which is around 2.5 cubic feet.

Converting it to imperial measurements, 203 cubic metres is 7,168 cubic feet, which would require 2,867 wheelbarrows.

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Calls for better water management for crop sustainability

Video taken earlier this year shows water bubbling out of a manhole cover on the plant’s property, with that water then foaming up en route to the ditch.

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In early February, neighbourhood resident Jeff Bligh told Global News that the wastewater has a noticeable smell.

“I don’t know exactly what it is, but it’s not a great smell, let’s put it that way.”

Global News has reached out to Sandher Fruit Packers for comment.

Global News also reached out to the Ministry of Environment, which said “Protecting the health and well-being of our communities and the environment is our top priority.”

The ministry confirmed that Sandher Fruit Packers applied for the authorization of discharge effluent on March 4, but that some of the required information was missing.

It says once all the required information has been submitted, a review of the application will take place, and consultation with First Nations will be completed.

“Following completion of the review, ministry staff will provide recommendations to a statutory decision maker who will make the final decision on the application (to issue a permit or reject the application),” said the ministry.

The status of waste discharge applications is available online.

Further, the ministry said its administrative penalty is being processed but that a final determination has not been made at this time.

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In related news, an online petition, requesting that the application be rejected, began on Wednesday. It had just shy of 100 signatures as of Thursday afternoon.

With files from Jayden Wasney.

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