Richmond City Hall is hoping to have more say in what types of materials are allowed to be dumped on local farmland as fill.
The General Purposes Committee meeting passed a motion Monday afternoon to request permission from the province to take over the responsibility of monitoring local fill applications.
Currently, that’s up to the Agricultural Land Commission which has a staff of two to enforce B.C.’s soil conservation act across the entire province.
The motion, which is scheduled to go before city council next Monday, stems from a protest and blockade last week of a 35-acre parcel of farmland in the 9300-block of Finn Road where owners of the property had been accepting truck loads of asphalt, concrete and rebar they said was going to be used as a roadbed through the area being converted to a tree farm nursery.
Opponents claimed the action was introducing toxic waste to good soil and took a break in their protest last Thursday to form a caravan to bring some of the serving tray-sized chunks of old blacktop and twisted lengths of steel to Richmond City Hall where they called for elected officials to get in on the matter.
Coun. Harold Steves, a longtime Richmond farmer, said the right of civic governments to rule on what types of material are dumped on farmland is not a new thing.
He says the BC Liberal government under former leader Gordon Campbell had transferred that duty to the ALC shortly after being elected. And Steves, for one, would like to see it returned to the city.
This particular situation involving the Finn Road property has run headlong into controversy because the ALC deemed the fill material allowable.
Steves agrees with the protestors that the mixture of asphalt and concrete is not the right type of materials to be used in forming a roadbed across farmland and that the offer from the landowners to break up the concrete and asphalt into smaller pieces would only, in the case of the black top, hasten the leaching of toxic materials into the soil. Blacktop contains creosote, a known carcinogen, Steves added.
More acceptable materials for building roadbeds include hog fuel — bark and wood chips — gravel, or crushed limestone, Steves said, but they cost.
“They pay you to put it (concrete and blacktop) on your field,” said Steves. “That’s the difference.”
Timothy Cheung from Canada Future Investments, owners of the property, said he is not receiving any payments for accepting the fill material. In fact, he was paying for it. He added the farmers’ protest has blocked access to some heavy equipment being used to construct the roadway which is costing the contractor $1,000 a day.
Cheung said he hoped to have a court injunction in place Wednesday morning so work can resume.