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Ill-fated mushroom farm warned on wastes

British Columbia’s environment ministry has ordered a Vancouver-area mushroom farm to stop operations until it fixes a potential overflow problem from its waste pits.

The province on Sunday didn’t name the mushroom farm, but the address it gave is that of Farmers’ Fresh Mushrooms, the Langley operation where three workers died in September in an apparent toxic gas leak in a pumphouse at the facility.

“Weather over the past few days has contributed to excess water that is overflowing from the secondary waste containment unit at the facility,” the province said in a release Sunday. “This containment system is supposed to capture run-off from the site and storm water, among other sources, and it has been overburdened by the recent heavy rains.”

When ministry inspectors visited the facility Saturday, “there was evidence that agricultural and compost waste (leachate and solids) is escaping directly to the environment,” the province said.

A ministry official was quoted by CBC as saying Sunday’s order was unrelated to the incident that led to the three deaths. However, CBC later quoted provincial Environment Minister Barry Penner as saying later Monday that nothing had been ruled out.

The order in this case says the operators of the farm must bring it into compliance before they can resume composting and growing activities.

The ministry gave the farm a deadline of Nov. 21 to file a report confirming the facility is in compliance with provincial requirements on mushroom compost-related pollution prevention and farm waste pollution prevention. Failure to comply could lead to “legal penalties.”

Farmers’ Fresh Mushrooms bills itself as “the premier mushroom company supplying produce wholesalers and retailers with the best mushrooms from B.C. to Alberta to California.”

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