Taking grass clippings to a neighbour’s yard to compost could be considered illegal dumping and result in fines of up to $200,000.
Dennis Trudeau, Regional District of Nanaimo general manager, transportation and solid waste, said people can compost materials generated on their property, but once it’s taken offsite, it must go to a properly licensed facility or a location with a valid permit.
Yard, garden and kitchen waste all fall under the municipal waste category once it leaves a person’s property. The regulations are enforceable under an RDN bylaw that governs the management of municipal solid waste and recyclable materials; however, Trudeau said he can’t recall the bylaw being applied in this manner previously.
Three residents in Lantzville are hoping to have action taken against Compassion Farm in Lantzville, owned by Dirk Becker and Nicole Shaw, under the bylaw.
In a letter to the RDN signed by Jim and Valeen Brash and Marian Klassen, dated May 17, the neighbours say they are concerned material brought onto Becker’s property creates environmental and health concerns which they allege the District of Lantzville refuses to address.
The municipality has attempted to deal with concerns connected to urban agriculture since the fall of 2010.
In January, Becker and Shaw signed a letter of agreement with the District of Lantzville to stop bringing manure onto the property. The district also created an urban food bylaw that was later abandoned in favour of creating a soil deposit and removal bylaw.
“The District of Lantzville, in all fairness, needs to be given adequate time to address this,” said Jamie Wallace, a spokesman for Friends of Urban Agriculture Lantzville, a group formed in response to the issue.
He questions how bringing a wheelbarrow of grass clippings to a neighbour’s house to be composted can be classified as illegal dumping.
The complaint letter states that for years, the Compassion Farm property has been a dumping ground for raw manure and other compostables that create an eyesore, generate objectionable odours and are kept in close proximity to domestic wells.
Becker said the farm had three visits from the Vancouver Island Health Authority to determine if material had any potential impact of drinking water in the area. VIHA determined that the garden operation wasn’t impacting shallow groundwater and information from a neighbour’s deep well indicated there wasn’t an impact on deep groundwater.
Becker said the bylaw should be changed, especially since it doesn’t seem to fit with the RDN’s zero waste and sustainability mandate that’s been developing over the last few years.
“I insist that it is changed,” said Becker. “Do we want people to farm and produce food on Vancouver Island? Let’s work together to find ways to encourage and support and protect someone that works hard for so little pay.”
He said he could go to a store and load a semi-truck with bags of fertilizer and soil and bring them to his property and there wouldn’t be a problem. But composting materials to create nutrient-rich soil for growing produce is essential for farmers who want to grow food organically.
Urban farming is becoming a global movement and there needs to be more measures in place that encourage, allow and protect people wanting to grow food, said Becker. What the issue boils down to is cultural differences, he added.
Wallace agrees, adding it’s a growing clash of philosophies between people who want a separation of the workplace and home, and those who see growing food in urban areas as the direction culture is evolving.
Trudeau said there is no timeline as to how long investigation into the complaint will take.
“We’ve just got the complaint and are looking at the facts and process on how we would need to deal with it,” he said.
The Brashs refused to comment and calls to Klassen and Lantzville Mayor Jack de Jong were not returned by press time.