A proposal for a poultry slaughterhouse has sparked an outcry from some south Langley residents, who fear the operation could impact their farming community and the environment.
At a Township of Langley public hearing on Monday night (March 19), 13 people voiced concerns about Garrett Broatch’s application to rezone 2.96 acres of his 39.5 acre property at 995 224 St. to agricultural processing zone (RU-6).
His proposal is meant to facilitate an abattoir as well as several new barns, which are currently under construction.
According to a letter of intent from Broatch, a “precedence was set” for this zoning on a farm up the road at 1701 224 St.
“The property is zoned RU-6 where the processing plant is constructed. The rest of the titled property is zoned RU-3 (and) 1701 224 (St.) remains in the ALR,” the letter states.
“(Our farm at) 995 224 St. sits on 40 acres. The set-backs and location of the abattoir wouldn’t be seen from the road. The side neighbour’s houses are a fair distance away.
“Birds would be take [sic] directly from our barns to the plant so sound would be no louder than daily operations. Processing happens indoors so sound isn’t a factor. The waste would be removed by third party which is experienced in this handling. CFIA (Canadian Food Inspection Agency) would be present at time of processing. All regulatory rules around abattoirs will apply to our facility.”
There are currently only two properties in the Township with this zoning. The other is Britco Pork Inc. at 22940 Fraser Hwy, which is not in the ALR. Meat processing is also permitted under heavy industrial zone M-4 as an outright use, and general industrial zone M-2B with abattoirs as an excluded use.
Kendall Ballantine, whose business Central Park Farms is located down the road from the proposal, said that in 2016 she attempted to submit a similar application for a small scale processing facility on her property.
She received approval from the Agricultural Land Commission and Ministry of Agriculture, and had a comprehensive business plan, but when it came to the Township, she was told “flat out” it would not be approved. She subsequently withdrew her application.
“In my opinion there is not nearly enough information in this application to make a decision so important in our community,” she said. “My concern is that nowhere in the document provided, including the letter of intent, does it indicate the size or volume of this plant. As per ALR regulations, he (the owner) has to produce at least 50 per cent of the birds on farm, but we have no idea what his current quota is.”
Some small scale farmers in Langley, like Ballantine, have recently struggled to find affordable places to take their poultry for processing, after large facilities stopped accepting custom kill orders for small flocks.
Ballantine said she does not believe this proposal will help small flock farmers fill that void.
“On the documents … it talks about how the Township needs to support propositions like this because they need to support small scale agriculture. Six barns like this is not small scale agriculture in our community. We have no idea what his current quota is.”
John Carter, who lives three blocks away from the proposal, is concerned with the potential effect on the aquifer. He said some residents in the area are already suffering from water shortages during the summer months, including his neighbour across the street, who went without water for two weeks last year.
“I’m a full supporter of small scale agriculture, and agriculture in our region, locally. However, there’s a profound difference between the production of product and/or livestock, and the processing thereof,” he said.
“If we had city water supply, storm and sanitary sewers, that perhaps could be different. But the point being that processing is an entirely different matter.”
Another resident, Nancy Clark, said it has been difficult for the residents to review the project, as no business plan has been publicly provided. With the information they do have, Clark estimates that the facility will use between 200,000 to 300,000 litres of water per week from the aquifer.
“I’m most concerned with what’s going to happen with the water once it’s used for slaughter, for kill,” she said. “The bacteria and viruses in that water could have untold consequences. If that gets into the aquifer, who’s going to pay for it? I’m thinking hundreds of millions, but I think this could get into the billions. This is a big problem. This does not belong on agricultural land where we’re on septic and well water.”
Irene Mckaig noted that the abattoir on the other RU-6 property on 224 Street has not been in operation since the 1970s. She, too, is concerned about the aquifer, and believes it is already under stress from a cranberry farm at 224 Street and 16 Avenue.
“Less than one mile away (from the cranberry farm), this council has given first and second reading to a proposal which would see thousands of litres of water per week used in the slaughter of the chickens from six proposed barns at a rate of 10 to 15 litres per chicken…” she said.
“Should there be any accident, malfunction, or act of god that would allow toxic residue from this slaughterhouse site to contaminate the ground source water — all it takes is once. And it is a certainty that the Township of Langley does not have a world-class restoration system waiting in the wing.”
When asked for comment, Broatch told the Langley Times that he is waiting for feedback from council.
“We’ll just let Langley Township go through its phases — they’ll be voting two weeks from now. And we’ll just let them see what they come back with, yes or no, and then we’ll take it from there,” he said.
Broatch did not make any comments during the public hearing.