Terrane Developments topsoil operation poses no threat to Pembertons bio-security. This fear was raised in the Pemberton Valley when the companys practice of mixing poultry manure with compost and wood fibre waste to create high-quality landscaping material became known.
"We have specialists soil scientists who have written a letter attesting to the bio-security," said president Cam McIvor. "We have a safe practice."
Eveline Wolterston, a senior soil scientist and a principal of the Vancouver-based environmental consulting company EvEco, determined the product to be safe.
"The manure is an input product to your manufactured topsoil business. It is blended with clean river sand, processed wood waste from an onsite log sort, and finished compost from Fraser Richmond Fibre in Richmond. The blended products are used as planting medium and landscape soil. Testing of the input and the manufactured products indicate they meet all landscaping, agricultural and environmental specifications," wrote Wolterston in a letter confirming the topsoils safety.
"The compost from Richmond Fibre is not a wet compost," emphasized McIvor. "Theres no kitchen waste its all organic basically lawn clippings."
The fact that the compost is devoid of kitchen scraps means that there is no potential for spreading diseases such as potato blight, an obvious concern to producers of Pembertons considerable seed potato stock.
However, community concerns were voiced about human, rather than vegetable, health. EvEco established that the Terrane Developments practices were safe and determined that the risk of human infection from the avian flu virus via the topsoil operation was negligible. The consulting company based this conclusion on extensive discussions with other experts, including engineers and animal health specialists from the Risk Management and Resource Management Branches of the B.C. Ministry of Agriculture and Food in Abbotsford and researchers with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency in Ottawa. The company further substantiated their opinion by citing the following information pertinent to avian flu:
Avian flu is detected by an illness in the flock. If illness is not detected, the virus is not in the manure. There is currently no illness in the Fraser Valley.
Government agencies have implemented a series of fail-safe practices to prevent outbreaks and the spread of infection. Each link in the prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and distribution chain is monitored and the response to an infection is immediate and permanent. If infection is detected, the current practice is to destroy the entire flock, even uninfected birds, quarantine the infected farm for a defined period, and to compost the manure with dead birds to quickly destroy the virus. The survival time of the virus is temperature-time dependent. At 60 ° C, the survival time is 30 minutes; at 44 ° C, the survival time is six hours.
Even without composting, the flu virus does not survive well in the environment. Manure is an especially poor environment, due to the high concentrations of ammonia, organic acids and other naturally occurring substances that severely inhibit the survival of the flu virus.
The strain of the avian flu virus that is infectious to birds is different than the strain that infects humans. To date in Canada, the virus has only been found in birds, including wild birds. The strain that is infectious to humans has not been detected.
Global evidence indicates that manure and soil are not factors in how the genome of the virus is converted to the strain that is infectious to humans. Direct contact with the birds is required. In fact, mixing manure with soil only serves to further reduce the risk of infection.
In conclusion, Wolsterton stated that Terrane posed no greater risk to bios-security that any other manure producer or user in the Pemberton Valley.
Currently there are approximately 15 years of poultry manure on Terranes site at the Pemberton Industrial Park in a covered stockpile. Chicken manure, because of its high nutrient value, is a common fertilizing agent. Due to the areas significant poultry industry, poultry manure from the Fraser Valley has been used extensively throughout southern B.C. without evidence of human health problems.