No chickens, says city

Citing concerns about possible contamination of the city water system the City of Greenwood won't allow backyard hens.

The hose in this picture is running on the ground underneath a build-up of chicken manure—something the city works foreman warns is a risk to the city’s water system.

It took over a year but the City of Greenwood has come to a final answer on whether or not to allow residents to keep laying hens—and the answer is no.

The issue has been on and off council’s agenda for over a year now. That was when resident Allison Anderson wrote the city asking for a revision of city bylaws that would permit the keeping of chickens.

After waiting almost a year for a definitive answer she wrote again earlier this year. Council decided at their March 10th meeting against a zoning bylaw revision that would have permitted chickens. But the issue was reconsidered at their March 24th meeting and decided to investigate a pilot-project along the lines of one now being undertaken in Penticton. Staff were directed to come with options for council to consider.

That package came back to council at their April 24, 2014 meeting.

“Because there are a number of residents that would like to have chickens,” said Mayor Nipper Kettle. “We requested information to be brought forward with regards to that. So we have the information here. I guess it is up to council to see whether we want to move forward with the chickens within city limits or to say no. “

City Administrator Robin Dalziel said his report did not include a recommendation to proceed with the pilot project because, “Essentially if you are going to have chickens in town you might as well do the bylaw. It can be established and if later council decides it is inappropriate you can change and repeal the bylaw.”

He said a pilot project would increase staff workload to monitor it and then making sure it came back to council for a review.

“If council decides to have chickens in the city there will be an automatic feedback process – complaints,” insisted Dalziel. “So we will know how the chickens are doing in the town because if things get out of hand people will let us know in no uncertain terms that they are having difficulty.”

Council was also given a memo from Public Works Superintendent Randy Smith that warned about the risk of contamination of the water system during a negative pressure event. “There are a couple different issues that cause these negative pressure events,” wrote Smith. “The first is high velocities in the water mains. These occur when a Fire Department is fighting a fire or during routine water main flushing. The second cause is a decrease in water main pressure, experienced during a power outage or water main repair. The water will drain to the lowest point in the system and create a suction. This suction can pull contaminants into the water lines and cause major issues to an unchlorinated water distribution system.”

“That letter the public works superintendent sent around certainly opened up some eyes,” said Kettle. “But at the end of the day it is the people who sit at this table who will decide. What we have to be aware of is that there are a number of people in the community now that do have chickens. So we have to be fair to all those too.”

Smith’s memo became the telling argument in the discussion. His memo included photographs of chicken runs.

Dalziel noted the contamination concerns raised by Smith could be addressed by regulating such things as requiring that hoses not run through puddles and that there must be a six inch space between the end of the hose and the pail. “But then the challenge is enforcement,” he said.

“Looking at some of these pictures I was appalled at what has been going on,” said Councillor Darla Ashton. “I am very fearful for my drinking water.”

She was told the city has a policy requiring back flow preventers only on new water hook-ups.

“The likelihood of a cross contamination is extremely small,” said Dalziel. “Randy made us aware of the potential – but not the likelihood.”

Councillor Barry Noll said he was opposed to allowing chickens. Lang again raised her concern people living near the creek who k e e p chickens m i g h t contaminate the waterway.

“Everybody has gardens,” said Councillor Lee Cudworth, “they use chicken manure and steer manure and there is already cows by the creek. My concern is these cardboard shacks,” he said referring to the picture Smith had provided.

“What about those who have chickens,” asked Ashton? “Theoretically they are breaking the law. But we can’t have cardboard shacks, we can’t have cross contamination and we can’t have people breaking the bylaw.”

Noll finally made a motion to receive and file the administrator’s memo. It was carried with Ashton opposing.

When asked to comment later Anderson said, “We are disappointed on the decision by the Greenwood City Council took to not allow them but we do understand that the city has concerns about the quality of the water in Greenwood and that is their priority. What is the everyday citizen supposed to do to change that?”


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