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Tantalus Labs a step closer to starting

Whonnock residents protested Tantalus’s new greenhouse operation on 272nd in east Maple Ridge last year, fearful that a marijuana operation could dry up the groundwater supply.   - THE NEWS/files
Whonnock residents protested Tantalus’s new greenhouse operation on 272nd in east Maple Ridge last year, fearful that a marijuana operation could dry up the groundwater supply.
— image credit: THE NEWS/files

Tantalus Labs, which wants to start a medicinal marijuana greenhouse in east Maple Ridge, now has a licence authorizing it to draw underground water.

It’s the first water licence issued to a marijuana company under B.C.’s new Water Sustainability Act, according to a Dec. 1 release.

Tantalus’s new greenhouse operation on 272nd Street brought Whonnock residents out to demonstrate last year, fearful that the marijuana operation would dry up the groundwater supply.

Houses in that area rely on water wells that tap into the Grant Hill aquifer, instead of Metro Vancouver water.

But Dan Sutton, managing director of Tantalus, said the quantity of water that has been approved, is half the amount sought in the application.

Tantalus was approved to draw out about 5,200 cubic metres of water a year from the aquifer.

“That was not actually the original quantity that we asked for,” Sutton said.

“But we were ready to make a concession in collaboration with the licencing body … to bring down that quantity to ensure our efficient use of water.”

Tantalus had applied to remove 10,000 cubic metres per year, according to the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations.

That amount approved will not affect other water users in the area, the ministry added.

“Conditions include flow restrictions in summer to limit potential for well interference, flow meter and water level installation, and submission of records, which will provide information to monitor and respond to any short- or long- term impacts,” said Greig Bethel, public affairs officer with the ministry.

Meeting those conditions showed the company was willing to reduce its water use in order to cooperate with the City of Maple Ridge and residents to ensure its water use doesn’t have an impact, Sutton said.

“It’s really forced us to be a highly efficient user of water,” and to use technology to capture rainwater.

Tantalus said the roof of the greenhouse will collect rainfall, which will be stored, then filtered before being used to grow marijuana.

Irrigation runoff also will be captured and diverted to crop production.

Whonnock resident Betty von Hardenberg pointed out that there are several conditions attached to the water licence.

“It’s a conditional water licence that’s going to be carefully monitored for the first three years, at least.”

She still says it’s the wrong location for the greenhouse.

“It should never have been placed there.”

The greenhouse is located on a 15-acre piece of property tucked into a low-lying area near Whonnock Creek, north of Lougheed Highway.

It’ll be the first purpose-built greenhouse for medical marijuana in western Canada, Sutton added.

Medicinal marijuana productions are a permitted use within B.C.’s Agricultural Land Reserve and municipal zoning isn’t needed.

A report from David Kneale, with Active Earth Engineering, says there are no anticipated impacts on the aquifer or surrounding wells.

“We’re excited to be the first cannabis company licensed under the new Water Sustainability Act. This license validates our material investment in sustainable innovation,” Sutton said in a release.

He added that the well has a water meter and a flow restrictor, limiting withdrawals during dry times of the year.

“They came down pretty hard on us. They made us really responsible, which I think is great.”

He said the company wants to be held to a high standard and makes its water use plan defensible.

Tantalus is still awaiting permission from Health Canada to start producing medical marijuana.

The greenhouse in Whonnock, called SunLab, completed construction last April.

Tantalus says its greenhouse operation uses only 10 per cent of the power used by indoor marijuana productions that depend on grow lights.

 

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