Abbotsford company boss receives hate mail over piles of dead pigs near Princeton – Vanderhoof Omineca Express
The owner of an Abbotsford-based composting and recycling business is receiving hate messages after photos of dead pigs at the company’s facilities near Eastgate, about 50km west of Princeton, began to circulate online.
“I take this very seriously and I care,” said Mateo Ocejo, president of Net Zero Waste.
“We are certainly not a polluter, and we are not a dumpster,” he said in a January 19 Black Press interview.
More than 600,000 animals in the Abbotsford area died in the catastrophic November 2021 floods, and about 12,000 of those were pigs.
Ocejo said he was approached by the agriculture ministry for help.
“I am not responsible for the death of the pigs. I am responsible for cleaning.
According to Ocejo, an engineering graduate and director of the Compost Council of Canada, the province was running out of options to dispose of the dead livestock.
“Normally they would go to a rendering facility…but those places were all completely overwhelmed,” he said.
“When the ministry called and asked if we could help, I said I could take a (pig) farm to Eastgate. It was incredibly tough with the weather. It was a nightmare. We did it because we were asked to, but it’s not something we looked for.
He could not give the exact number of pig carcasses that were removed, but said they filled 17 watertight trucks and weighed around 400 tonnes. Ocejo said if he hadn’t taken the pigs, they would have been sent to a landfill.
The Eastgate property, a former, duly licensed mushroom composting plant, has been operational since the summer of last year.
Black Press has contacted the Department of Agriculture for comment and is awaiting a response.
The pigs were shipped from Abbotsford starting the second week of December, Ocejo said. At that time, the temperature was around -20 degrees Celsius and the animals were frozen. They were placed on concrete plinths, Ocejo said. Noting the plant’s proximity to the Similkameen River, he added that the pads are more than 100 meters from the waterway and the liquid from the pads is drained directly into a lined confined pond.
The company was unable to cover the pigs, as needed for composting, as quickly as needed.
“I admit it, but that was just the beginning as we were navigating our way through the mess. It’s something no one expected, and we were operating in extreme conditions and trying to help in an emergency. »
It took two weeks to coat four piles of pig carcasses and mix them with the right balance of elements, including carbon and water. It takes a year to compost such carcasses.
The Upper Similkameen Indian Band (USIB) filed a complaint with the Department of the Environment, which visited the site on December 21.
“The department is continuing its analysis and is in contact with local government and the Upper Similkameen Indian Band,” read a statement prepared by the department.
“The continued health and safety of staff, residents and the surrounding community remains a top priority. Once the inspection report is completed, it will be available in the Natural Resources Compliance and Enforcement Database.
A USIB spokesperson was unavailable for comment by the deadline.
Images of piles of dead pigs are distressing images, Ocejo conceded, but suggested the public is generally unfamiliar with animal composting.
“People can understand that you can compost your sirloin steak and you can compost your bacon and your bacon grease. But people see a dead pig and they’re like, “Well, you can’t compost that.”
Princeton Mayor Spencer Coyne said he had no first-hand knowledge of Operation Net Zero Waste, but was bombarded with questions from residents. The facility is in the regional district; however, Black Press was unable to reach Area H director Bob Coyne by the deadline.
Spencer Coyne said his biggest concern is how the events highlight a lack of communication between local governments and the province.
“It has nothing to do directly with myself, the city or the regional district, other than the fact that a decision was made in our watershed that did not include us.”
Going forward, local governments, or at least USIB, should be included in these discussions, he said.
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