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Impact of Biosolids on First Nations Way of Life

by Kay Swakum (Lower Nicola Indian Band - Scw'exmx nation)

Impact of Biosolids on First Nations Way of Life

Scw'exmx people and other community members have been fighting to stop the Districts of Abbotsford and Okanagan-Similkameen from dumping human sewage and industrial waste in the Nicola Valley. The B.C. government’s Ministry of Environment are carrying out a land application plan on the dumping which doesn’t require First Nations or public input for approval. Since February 2015, the Lower Nicola, Coldwater, and Nooaitch Indian bands, and the Friends of the Nicola Valley have maintained three checkpoints along the major entrance routes to stop Timbro Contracting from transporting rigs full of biosolids to treatment facilities on Sunshine Valley road. There are future plans to dump the finished product at Dry Lake, which is 1 km uphill from 44 Subdivision well and supplies one community with drinking water.

Biosolids are a combination of human and industrial waste accumulated from urban centres. The Scw'exmx people of the Nicola Valley are appalled and shocked by the BC government's tactic of allowing municipalities to dump biosolids on their territories. As a result, we've been gathering to protest against the land application for biosolids.  If allowed to continue, the dumping will have devastating environmental impacts and health effects on all people who live in the Nicola Valley. These biosolids endanger our traditional activities and way of life on our ancestral lands in many ways.

Fishing

We depend on fishing as a traditional food source for the whole year. We also serve fish at our ceremonies and community gatherings. If we accept the dumping of biosolids, the waters where the fish live and thrive will become contaminated, which in turn will affect the food chain that we depend on. This poses a serious threat both to the fish habitat, and the health and sustenance of the people who consume fish daily. We must make every effort to protect our traditional food source by standing firmly against importing biosolids in the Nicola Valley territory.

Hunting

Hunting for deer, moose and elk is our traditional way of life. Wild meat is healthier than processed foods and a necessary part of combating diabetes. Hunting and consuming wild meat supports and promotes the overall health and wellbeing of our people. In addition, the consumption of wild meat helps those of us who live on tight budgets. Wild game is also used for ceremonies and funerals, and the hides are used for traditional drums and clothing.

Biosolids contain toxic pollutants and release nauseating odours, dangerous pathogens, and harmful metals that can be dangerous to humans and wildlife. The dumping of biosolids will jeopardize the role that hunting and wildlife play on our sacred lands.

Gathering Plants

Another long-standing tradition that we continue to actively practice is the harvesting of wild medicine plants, herbs and berries. We depend on wild medicinal herbs from the forests for our health and wellness. We use several types of wild vegetation for medicinal purposes, including wild mushrooms, berries, roots, and leaves. Biosolids can spread through forests and jeopardize our practices of eating forest berries and herbs.  Biosolids contain harmful heavy metals that can create health problems in humans as well as hinder wild plant growth. We must protect our precious wild vegetation and its sustaining effects on our health and well-being by saying “No to biosolids!”

Environmental Sustainability

Before contact, we lived in such a way that the natural environment within our territories was able to thrive. It's important that this be able to continue and that we are able to sustain ourselves in more traditional ways. The only way this can happen is without the interference of biosolids seeping into our forests by spring run-offs or being dumped onto our territories from highways by rigs (trucks). In the Nicola Valley, we enjoy the use of rivers and streams for fishing and swimming; however, this carefree way of life may cease if biosolids are allowed to take over. We could lose even the enjoyment of walking and camping in the great outdoors if biosolids contaminate our forests. It would be a harm and an injustice if the Government allowed municipalities to act without taking into account the wellbeing of First Nations people. We're putting our lives on the line to protect our sacred lands and environment through boycotts, roadblocks, and other tactics to eliminate biosolids from our territories. Urban centres must find alternative ways of dealing with biosolids and not just resort to the easiest cheapest methods.

In conclusion, biosolids threaten our entire food chain and destroy the wonderful nature that surrounds the Nicola Valley. It will compromise our fishing, hunting, and picking of wild medicinal vegetation. Moreover, government officials have kept this land application a secret from our people and the general public. First Nations’ people should voice their opposition to the dumping of biosolids on their territories; after all, it is their children’s future. This movement needs people of all backgrounds and cultures to unite and take action to combat biosolids. We must stand together and support each other because we all share the same air, water, and environment.  We must keep biosolids out of the Nicola Valley. Other jurisdictions must wake up and “smell the roses,” or else soon enough they'll be smelling biosolids!

 


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