Now their blockade of a Finn Road parcel of farmland is over, members of FarmWatch intend to keep a close eye on the dumping of potentially environmentally harmful fill materials on farm sites across Richmond, and hopefully get the premier’s attention to have the practice stopped.
“We are going to the provincial government to get these rules changed,” said former longtime farmer Ray Galawan, adding FarmWatch — a name the protestors recently adopted — is considering another caravan of farm vehicles, this time stopping on the doorstep of Premier Christy Clark’s constituency office in Point Grey sometime next week.
Last Thursday (Jan. 17) FarmWatch supporters took their caravan protest to Richmond City Hall to display some large fill items they had recovered from the Finn Road farm where the property owners said the materials were being used to construct a road bed through a future tree farm on the 35-acre site.
“I am hoping I can meet her (Clark) face to face and talk to her. And if not, the agriculture minister. And better yet, the both of them,” Galawan said.
FarmWatch contends concrete and asphalt are toxic and can leach harmful chemicals into the soil. To protest their dumping, FarmWatch members set up a blockade last Monday.
While they managed to get the work halted,thanks to an order from the Agricultural Land Commission, Galawan said it fell short of ordering the removal of the materials.
“The land commission (ALC) say they are allowed to grind up the toxic asphalt and concrete and put it back in the field,” said Galawan.
Thomas Loo, Agricultural Compliance and Environment Officer with the ALC said the concern over the fill material focused on the size of the dumped pieces and where they were deposited.
Loo added that similar materials have been used in the cranberry industry and there have not been concerns it exposed the crops to harmful substances.
Officials at Canada Future Investments, owners of the property, had sought a court injunction to remove the blockade but had their petition refused in court Wednesday.
Company spokesperson Timothy Cheung said the judge did not consider the actions of FarmWatch a protest and said the matter is one for the RCMP.
Cheung said plans now are to follow the ALC’s orders and undertake the work to break down the fill.
FarmWatch member Kimi Hendess said the group plans to turn their focus to other farm sites across the community to see if the practice of dumping waste materials is being done elsewhere.
Hendess also hoped there would be a strong show of support at this Monday’s council meeting when a bylaw asking the province to allow increased local involvement and control over dumping on farmland is scheduled to be presented.