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LETTER: Petition aims to keep toxic chemicals out of Greater Victoria environment

The world finally seems to be waking up to the harms of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS. Commonly referred to as “forever chemicals” due to their slow rate of degradation and associated build-up in animals, humans and our natural environment, PFAS are manmade chemicals found in nearly all consumer goods, from furniture and food containers to clothing and cookware.

Recent academic research suggests that PFAS can be highly toxic at even miniscule levels, and studies have shown that exposure to certain levels of PFAS can lead to reproductive effects/decreased fertility in women, developmental delays in children, increased risk of certain cancers, immunological impacts (including reduced vaccine response), hormonal changes, and even higher cholesterol levels.

In response to this growing evidence of harm to human and environmental health, the EPA recently announced stringent PFAS limits for US drinking water, Maine has passed a ban on the land application of biosolids due to resulting PFAS contamination of farms and waterways, California has successfully sued PFAS manufacturer 3M for over $10 billion for contaminating the state’s drinking water, and the EPA will now force companies that produce or disseminate PFAS to foot the bill to remove them from US drinking water.

With recent news that Synagro – the CRD’s contracted manufacturer of biosolids – is facing charges for selling PFAS-laden biosolids to farmers in Texas, we’d have good reason to be concerned. However, as a result of the regional ban on the land application of biosolids that has been in place since 2011, the South Island has been able to avoid one of the most notorious sources of PFAS contamination: sewage sludge.

The CRD ban on the land application of biosolids is strongly supported by local residents and numerous organizations. At a time when other communities are having to destroy livestock or spend millions to remediate farms contaminated with PFAS-laden biosolids, the ban has successfully kept biosolids out of our farms, forests, and waterways.

Moreover, our region has become an international environmental leader in the fight against the land application of biosolids. In fact, the CRD has passed a motion to establish a pilot-gasification plant at Hartland Landfill to assess whether thermal conversion could turn our current municipal waste stream into a valuable source of sustainable fossil-free energy, while also removing or destroying PFAS and other chemicals of concern.

Despite ongoing pressure from the provincial Ministry of the Environment, most of the CRD directors have held firm against the land application of biosolids. However, with a pilot gasification plant still years away, the CRD board is once again considering this option. In response, the community-based Peninsula Biosolids Coalition has launched a petition to uphold the ban on the land application of biosolids at www.change.org/banbiosolids.

Please sign the petition and let the CRD board know that now is not the time to spread PFAS, microplastics, pharmaceuticals and other toxic chemicals throughout our natural environment. Rather, now is the time to recommit to protecting our region’s waterways, farms and forests, and for us all to celebrate and support the longstanding ban on the land application of biosolids in the CRD.

Philippe Lucas

Victoria

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