Previously confidential documents about a contaminated Spallumcheen water source are being made public.
The Ministry of Environment says it will disclose soil test results and other documents related to the Hullcar aquifer after an order was issued by Elizabeth Denham, information and privacy commissioner.
“It’s astonishing that it took her order to do this,” said Al Price, with the Save Hullcar Aquifer Team, which has been demanding the reports about high nitrate levels.
“The legislation reads that any information affecting public health must be released immediately. The government has just delayed.”
Denham initiated an investigation in February after receiving a complaint from the Environmental Law Centre alleging the ministry was required to proactively disclose information related to the water quality under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.
Among the reports that must be released are soil test results and nutrient management plans that led to authorization of the application of liquid manure to the farm in question.
Denham says the ministry failed to make every reasonable effort to assist the Environmental Law Centre with its access requests.
“The duty to assist is an essential component of our access and privacy laws. Public bodies must make every reasonable effort to assist and respond without delay to applicants in a way that is open, accurate and complete,” she said in a release.
The ministry says there was a delay in releasing the farm’s nutrient management plan because it believed it could not released due to federal copyright laws.
“We have now received the commissioner’s ruling, and based on her findings will be releasing those documents immediately,” said Mary Polak, environment minister, in a release.
“The ministry also accepts the recommendation to ensure all staff are properly trained to respond to access for information requests under the Freedom of Information and Personal Privacy Act and will take action on this as soon as possible.”
With the documents being released, Spallumcheen wants to bring together all of the stakeholders.
“It’s in the public interest to see how we can resolve the issue,” said Mayor Janice Brown.
“I’m excited to get the information. It’s a step in the right direction.”