9360 Finn Road—farm or dump?

Bulletin, Friday, January 26, 2013: Richmond council will address items prompted by this matter in the main council chambers on the first floor of Richmond City Hall, No. 3 Road at Garden City Road, at 7 p.m. The agenda lists those items on pages 3–5. The agenda also includes links from those pages to the details in the agenda package.

Bulletin, Monday, January 21, 2:20 p.m.: The ALC has issued a stop work order along with a set of clear expressions of the problem. Congratulations!

Bulletin, Monday, January 21, 7:20 p.m.: With an overflowing council meeting room, Richmond council further got the message and is making follow-up efforts. Congratulations!

The Richmond council meeting related to this post is on Monday, Jan. 21, 2012 at 4:00 p.m. in the Anderson Room on the second floor of Richmond City Hall. More details at the end of this article.

An agricultural conservation issue has drawn fitting notice lately in the Province (Jan. 15 and Jan. 16 and Jan. 18), the Richmond Review and the Richmond News. There has been depositing of used materials on the farm at 9360 Finn Road, Richmond, including at least a truckload of large pieces of asphalt that I identified for myself. That is not consistent with the understanding between the Agricultural Land Commission and the “Qualified Professional” (QP) representing the “farmer.” Both the QP Report  and the ALC staff response indicate the placement of only topsoil and granular fill. The QP report includes this diagram of roadways on the property.

Jones Nursery roadway diagram

Notice that the diagram labels say “granular fill.” As far as I can discover, granular fill is largely crushed rock (with maybe a bit of sand and even silt), and the maximum size that it applies to seems to be three inches or about 75 millimetres. Agricultural Land Commission inspector Thomas Loo and the QP agreed on reused concrete bits up to six inches long (over 150 mm), but they said nothing of slabs too big for a strongman to lift or about big chunks of asphalt.

Richmond staff have recommended a way to deal with the problem and similar ones. I think it’s important that citizens attend the city council committee meeting that will discuss it and that they speak knowledgeably about it. The staff report starts on page 83 of this agenda.

Concerned citizens led by farmers like Ray Galawan have come together as FarmWatch BC to address this and related issues. They are distributing this flyer about the council meeting.


Suggestions about speaking for those who are new at this: Early in the meeting or early in the agenda item, the mayor will ask if there are any delegations, usually one person (or maybe a couple), and the response is to raise your hand and make sure it is seen if you wish to speak. The mayor will normally permit each delegation to speak for up to five minutes, starting by identifying themselves with name and address. It is a good idea to bring speaking notes, preferably in a form that one can read expressively if need be. Council members will be seated around a large table, and you will sit facing the mayor. Aim to have something distinctive to contribute. It’s fine to speak for just a minute or two, and in fact that’s better than rambling on. It’s good if there are a number of informed delegations, but just being present to be interested and supportive is important too. Council meetings start on time, and it isn’t a huge room, so it’s best to be early.



  1. 1
    Thomas Says:

    The Recycled asphalt will be processed on site to smaller pieces, probably 3/4″ minus and used only as top dress. Ray Galawan and his crew have it all wrong. There is a huge amount of information from various jurisdictions, including the US EPA and other US States that consider recycled asphalt (RAP) as “inert, clean fill”. In Washington, they even allow the RAP to be used as a lining for ponds for fish ponds. So I think the idea of it as a “Toxic Dump” is really an emotional response and somewhat misleading.

    • 2
      Farmer Jo Says:

      When it has been a family farm for many years, it can’t not be an emotional issue. Also there is nothing wrong with being emotional and passionate about the issue. Place yourself in the farmer’s shoes and look at it from that perspective. Other words for toxic might be: dangerous, harmful and injurious. At the end of the day, in BC we can work towards something different than US states. This isn’t about being hyper organic, its common sense. Those who support farmland being reserved in Richmond for food production have to be passionate with the farmers who have farmed in order to understand and learn what is good for the land. The issue is that the land will be poisoned and not be able to be farmed for years to come. Regarding the word Dump, other words one can use would be: throwaway, heap, and discard. Would you not agree the materials being ‘placed on site’ can be described by these words?

  2. 3
    margaret g Says:

    It is interesting that Thomas is talking about “Recycled” asphalt because his facts may be true but this is irrelevant to the situation on Finn Road, they are not using recycled asphalt they are using CONSTRUCTION WASTE MATERIAL. We don’t know what contaminants are in this material, had it been recycled it would have been analyzed, cleaned up and added to new material to offset the contaminants.

    • 4
      Thomas Says:

      I still stand by my original comments that the materials being used on the base of the road are still considered “recycled”. It’s all a matter of perspective. If your group is upset about Finn road, then what about all the piles of “waste” at the Cranberry Farms ? Are you also going to label them as “toxic dumpsites”?

      You all talk about the land being poisoned, yet the BC Ministry of Environment do not consider it to be a pollutant. What about all the houses and driveways everywhere? You also talk about fill materials being used for road as being okay or hogfuel, yet both of those materials can also be considered wastes from the excavation and forestry industry. Both can also be considered as pollutants. No one does testing on that type of fill.

      I get the perspective of a “farmer”. Lets talk about the thousands of gallons of pesticides, herbicides, fungicides etc..manure and everything else a “farmer” uses on the land. What about the fact that most farmers use the land as a disposal site for their manure. I’ll bet that you probably don’t go out to the land and take samples for analysis to ensure that your nutrient loading isn’t too high.

      Common sense? REALLY? Your logic is flawed. Sorry. All you are doing is causing a huge devotion of resources to a non-issue, while the “real bad guys” are getting away with things.

      By the way – how can facts be irrelevant?

  3. 5
    margaret g Says:

    From a brief survey of literature on construction waste material, and from interviews with contamination experts, we can safely say that there are contaminants in the waste material being used on the farm for road-building, and there is potential of contaminants leaching from the waste into the soil, and into the groundwater and beyond.
    The types of contaminants depend on the materials and what they were previously used for. Without knowing the source of the construction waste, we cannot be certain what contaminants are possibly leaching into the soil and water. Likely possibilities are:
    • asphalt*
    o highly complex; can contain up to 150 carbon atoms, as well as sulfur, and several heavy metals, like nickel, lead, chromium, mercury, arsenic, and more.
    o polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH’s) and other toxic organic (carbon-based) compounds
    o solvents (mixed in to make it easier to work with): volatile organic compounds (VOCs) like naphtha, toluene, and xylene.
    o PCB’s have also been added to asphalt in the past, to add fire resistance, flexibility and inhibit corrosion.
    o chemicals and heavy metals through exposure (e.g. chromium, venadium from vehicle traffic)
    o grinding it into 3/4″ “recycled” material simply increases the oxegynation and release of chemicals and metals
    • concrete:
    o chemicals and heavy metals through exposure (e.g. chromium, venadium from vehicle traffic); often zinc and chromium from rebar that often used to be in it
    o unknown chemicals or heavy metals from kiln waste-fuel ash being added into the cement mix (as is now common practice)
    o raises soil pH, which affects the behaviour and bioavailability of toxins
    • rebar (often in concrete): contains zinc and chromium
    • diesel filters, pvc, scraps of unknown material
    The environmental impact of these toxins is difficult to determine conclusively due to multiple variables: type and level of contaminant, mobility in the environment, how it reacts to varying pH levels and degrees of water drainage/flooding, and each contaminant’s level of toxicity.
    We can be sure that it will no longer be safe to assume that the land can grow food. If for some reason, the tree farm operation fails, the productivity of the land and potential for reverting to food production will have been destroyed.
    The cost of testing, determining contaminants, and remediating would be astronomical. Removal of the material, proper disposal, rebuilding topsoil fertility, and follow-up testing are economically out of the question for any future farmer.

  4. 6
    Doug Says:

    The continuing deterioration, caused by ‘man’, of local farmland has grave consequences. The moment you relinquish your capacity to produce food for your own population is the moment you take the significant risk of the deterioration of your society. Too many people are acting like dumb sheep in this regard. Snow peas from China, no thanks. Bleached garlic from China, no thanks.

    This issue of artificial, toxic fill being used on crop production land in Richmond is very disturbing. Follow the money, I suppose. The politicians and appointed staffers are playing the game… increase the tax base of the land, allow businesses using the land to make big profits, and the gov’t folks are happy — more money to spend/leverage.

    One day this insanity will come to an end.

    • 7
      Farmer Jo Says:

      Doug, I/we are in agreement with you. It is Day 199 at 9360 Finn Road Farm. We are continuing to watch and wait what is going to emerge from the onset of the proposed project that Farm Watch BC began to protest on January 16, 2013. Farmers are terribly pragmatic and for good reason! Their primary passion is to grow food for people and hopefully make some sort of living for themselves.

      Thanks for underscoring the fact that toxic fill has been dumped on crop production land in Richmond. It is alarming and the political games that are played in the name of ‘more money to spend’ unfortunately equals a capability and buying power that most of us don’t possess.

      Getting people in government who care about the use of farmland for growing food is key.Yes, one day the insanity will come to an end, yet only with the help and vision from those people who see the long term picture and are willing to take risks with their money to invest in growing local BC economy with the intent to reduce reliance on transnationalism.

      Additionally, If land is owned privately by off shore investors it would be a wise and honourable action on their behalf, to invest in positive cross cultural relations with attention being paid to the Agricultural Land Reserves’ laws currently in place that governs use of BC farmland.

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