The question Liisa Cormode wants answered is why, when Tantalus Labs was looking for a spot for its medical marijuana operation, the city would have put Whonnock on the list of possible locations.
“Why did somebody from the municipality recommend this site given the water issues here?”
She was referring to statements made by Dan Sutton, of Tantalus Labs earlier that Maple Ridge staff had presented the company with a half dozen locations, one of which Tantalus chose as its site for a greenhouse operation to grow medical marijuana.
Residents of the area took to the street for an hour Friday to again show their opposition to the plant that will finish construction this summer.
And water, or what will happen to the groundwater that supplies their homes, was most on the minds of 70 or so who attended.
Cormode said Health Canada should require hydrological studies for medical marijuana operations, as part of the licensing process, to ensure the operations don’t affect water supplies.
Residents are concerned that the drawing on the aquifer to run the 97,000-sq.ft. nursery will deplete the reservoir. Tantalus disagrees.
For Merle Chambers, who lives nearby and relies on an underground well for her kitchen and bathroom, water is always top of mind.
She recycles her dish water, by putting into the vegetable garden. She used to keep 60 chickens but they use a lot of water so now she has only four.
She doesn’t mind the marijuana operation. “We don’t care what these guys do, as long as they bring in their own water.” The company can put up storage tanks and truck it in, she suggested.
This year is already dry, she pointed out. She doesn’t believe an independent report, ordered by Tantalus, that says the operation won’t affect the water table.
Sutton though says the report provides “conclusive evidence that our greenhouse will have no impact on neighbouring water uses.”
“This greenhouse will be a beacon of environmentalism and stewardship,” he said by e-mail.
Carla Wellman said most Whonnockians run out of water in mid-July anyways, requiring them to truck in their water.
She’s also in a permanent state of saving water. “I don’t water my lawn. I keep bricks in my toilet.”
Birgit Mischke wanted to know why there were no signs explaining the hauling of gravel or fill on to the property prior to construction. There are many other locations within the Agricultural Land Reserve, flatter, even with municipal water, that would have been more suitable.
“”This is the wrong place There are lot of problems with a grow operation of this size when there’s no water,” said Phil Johnson. “When you live in Whonnock, you realize how valuable water is.”
Questions and answers were shouted over a megaphone, during the hour-long protest.
Who is responsible for the utility servicing agreements with the city? one resident asked. “This is a water-shortage area. It’s been that way for years.”
MLA Marc Dalton told the crowd he presented the petition against the operation to the legislature. “I’m here for you,” he said.
Next year, when the new Water Sustainability Act takes effect, permits will be required for non-domestic use of groundwater.
He told the crowd he would raise the issue with Environment Minister Mary Polak and ask to have the water withdrawal denied, even though the act isn’t yet in place. “I will bring that forward.”
Coun. Kiersten Duncan said Maple Ridge is trying to improve the public input process and is continuing to seek legal clarification on whether the city can reveal the location of medical marijuana operations.
“We’re trying to bring that to the public and it’s really challenging.
“Because the public has the right to a public process. And they have the right to answers and they’re not getting that.”
However, city lawyers continue to advise that the city cannot reveal those locations.
Dennis Streifel, former MLA for the area, says that’s not true. Health Canada said the locations of possible medical marijuana operations can be made public.
Earlier this year, Mayor Nicole Read wrote to Health Minister Rona Ambrose expressing concern that Health Canada
has no formal public process relating to the location of medical marihuana production facilities.
Don Fisk, who lives across from the facility, was the only one at the rally in favour of the plant.
However, he draws his water from a local creek instead of the aquifer. “I’m not getting any benefit at all,” he said. But the facility is on agricultural land and that’s what its’ being used for, he said.
“It just seems to be within the law.”