LETTER: Walkerton disaster an example for government policy

Barry Brandow
By Barry Brandow
February 19th, 2012

To the Editor;

Bruce Davidson an activist from Walkerton, Ontario who has made over one hundred presentations will tell his story in Grand Forks in March. Remember Walkerton, over 2300 seriously ill, seven deaths and over 40 left with serious health problems, all from cow manure in one of the town’s water wells?

Al Grant from Rock Creek will start the evening with a short presentation that will demonstrate why Bruce’s presentation is relevant to water management in the Boundary.

This event in a large way is driven by comments by a B.C. Cattlemen’s representative and a government employee at a Grand Forks City Council meeting May, 2010.

In response to concerns about the unlimited access by cows in the Granby River and rehabilitating the muck holes on the Gilpin grasslands, the range employee and Cattlemen’s representative stated that pathogens from cow manure was not a health issue. Their argument was that properly functioning riparian areas would quickly filter out pathogens.

How is it possible that in a modern society public health and the Ministry of Environment are not on the point speaking strongly on behalf of the public interest on all issues connected to our water? Remember rural B.C. is growing rapidly and responsible water management is more important than ever!

The forest practices board issued a provincial news release in December 2009 indicting range management after examining over 200 range plans and many on site inspections. This indictment was quickly followed by a well distributed e-mail by well known retired biologist, Ray Demarchi and his colleagues criticizing range management in the East Kootenay. I believe there are plenty of examples in the Boundary that reinforce the argument that responsible range management is a thing of the past.

Responsible water management has to examine all human activity, but I believe the management of the cow is a serious concern that looms large over the future management plan for the Kettle River and the ongoing proposed changes to the Provincial Water Act.  A point reinforced by the fact that range plans are no longer available for public scrutiny and stakeholders have no input.

Good government supports ranching but good government cannot continue to ignore the public interest and will mandate the removal of the cow from sensitive, important environments: domestic watersheds, parks and quality recreation areas.

Bruce Davidson’s presentation will make the case that proactive water management that puts the public interest first is a small price to pay when you consider the cost of mitigating a health management disaster like Walkerton, Ontario.

Join us at Davidson’s talk at the Grand Forks Secondary School Auditorium Mar. 14, at 7 p.m.

Barry Brandow

Grand Forks, B.C.

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