The Cherryville resident linked to allegedly contaminated water insists he’s done nothing wrong.
On Wednesday, officials from the Ministry of Environment and the Interior Health Authority checked out reports of contaminated wells and a tributary to Cherry Creek in the area of North Fork and Lang roads.
“We didn’t intend for this to happen,” said Randy Prebushewski, who owns the ranch believed to be the source of manure.
“The ground is frozen and up until the nice weather, it was winter. Then we got rain, rain, rain and it knocked the snow down. Water runs downhill and unfortunately, it takes the nutrients with it.”
Prebushewski says similar situations occurred in the 1980s and while there have been questions about his cattle being fed close to the wells, he disagrees.
“I may talk to the Ministry of Environment about maybe not feeding cattle within 200 metres of the creek but if there are the same weather conditions next year, there will still be a problem.”
Prebushewski is currently scraping away frozen manure to try and reduce the material that may enter the wells.
IHA’s investigation continues.
“Because of (snow) runoff, manure is being flushed into the creek,” said Mike Adams, IHA environmental health team leader. “We want to work collaboratively with all parties and agencies to find a solution.”
Ministry of Environment staff took water samples and the results will be available in the next week.
“Staff will continue to work with the Health Authority and occupant as needed to ensure protection of human health and the environment,” states the ministry.
Resident Garry Toma has abandoned his well because of health concerns.
“I’m hauling water in for washing dishes and the laundry I haven’t figured out. Friends have offered to help with laundry and showers,” he said. “I am not using the hot water because it smells like manure.”
Besides domestic wells, students at Cherryville Elementary have been told to use bottled water at this time as a precautionary measure.
Eugene Foisy, regional district director for Cherryville, is calling for a solution that protects water quality while recognizing the importance of agriculture to the rural economy.
“There has to be some middle ground. Fining a person isn’t the issue,” he said.
“We just need to resolve the problem, maybe possibly through berms.”
Prebushewski says another option may be to scale back his operation because of snow melt, irrigation issues and dogs chasing his cattle.
“I’m probably going to get rid of half of my cattle and maybe talk to the regional district about getting my land out of the Agricultural Land Reserve,” he said.