B.C. moves to stop primary plant effluent

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The British Columbia Government are moving to tighten rules for fish-processing and salmon-farming operations, the Canadian Province announced Wednesday, and lawmakers are citing the “effluent” from a primary fish processing facility that was seen in a now viral photograph.

The photo showed red plumes of contaminated process facility water entering the Campbell River, and they were part of a sequence taken by activist photographer, Tavish Campbell. They appear to have had a near-immediate effect on the Province’s aquaculture policymaking.

“Serious and widespread concerns about effluent from fish processing operations and finfish aquaculture practices have been raised, and the government is taking action,” George Heyman, B.C.’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, told fellow lawmakers. Fish processing and fish farms “along our coast” will be expected to “work with” government on new regulations that are “safe” and do not contaminate wild salmon.

An immediate review of 35 fish process plant discharge permits will start with a look at whether waste materials stay clear of waterways used by wild salmon, several species of which are now understood to be key nutrient sources behind the Province’s Rain Forests. The process plant rules overhaul, however, will mostly look for new “best practices” based on better pathogen science to assuage public fears that contaminants — like those in the red effluent photo — are never suspect again.

“Our bottom line is to make sure that we protect our wild salmon and keep harmful substances from entering the marine environment as a result of these operations,” said Heyman.

Behind it all, however, is a fundamental weakness, now exposed, that the Waste Discharge Regulation under the Environmental Management Act allows the fish process plant discharges into marine waterways from primary processing facilities.