Environment File

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A local celebrity will host a talk later this week as part of a conference on the future of food.

Greenhouse guru Jim Hole is set to chair a free panel discussion on energy, resilience and the future of food this Friday as part of the Powering Up! Food for the Future conference in Edmonton. The four-day event will see about 300 people from across Canada gather at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology to talk about local food and food policy.

The recent E. coli outbreak in Canadian beef illustrates how vulnerable our current food system is to disruption, said conference co-ordinator Susan Roberts.

“Our system is not resilient. If XL (Foods) shuts down, beef goes down,” she said.

We’re also reliant on food imported from places like California, added Hole, who is co-owner of the Enjoy Centre – food that puts strain on that state’s groundwater resources and creates hidden environmental costs.

“We don’t realize a lot of the time what we’ve lost and what we stand to lose,” Hole continued.

By importing carrots, for example, we push farmers to grow vegetables that can survive shipping, sacrificing flavour for toughness, and do things like spray tomatoes with ethylene gas so they turn prematurely red.

“Generations coming up won’t realize what a good, home-grown tomato tastes like,” he said.

The conference features about 40 sessions on a variety of topics including farmers’ markets, biofuels, young farmers, genetically modified foods and more, Roberts said.

There will also be a Tastes and Sounds of Alberta event Saturday night where guests will get to sample local food and music.

Hole encouraged everyone to go the conference.

“We all eat, so I think we should all know the issues around food.”

The conference runs from Nov. 1 to 4. Hole’s free talk is 7 p.m. on Friday. Visit foodsecurecanada.org for details.

The city plans to close part of the Red Willow Trail near the BMX park in mid-December in order to add a grit interceptor to its sewer system.

City staff put out a notice this week about their ongoing efforts to add eight grit interceptors to St. Albert’s storm sewers. Pegged at about $10 million, the eight structures are meant to help keep sand and gravel from washing off the city’s streets and into the Sturgeon River.

Crews dropped the first of these new interceptors into Mission Outfall No. 6 earlier this year, said Leah Jackson, the city’s environmental manager.

Located under the Chateau Mission Court parking lot, this pre-built concrete structure is built so that water flowing into it spins around, causing a vortex that sucks grit and oil into a central trap. The grit settles in the middle, and the water flows past on the outside.

Once operational (it’s not hooked up yet), the interceptor should trap about seven cubic metres of junk a year, said Jackson. (In comparison, the large one on St. Anne Street does about 10 cubic metres a year.)

The second interceptor is going in next to the BMX park along the Red Willow Trail, Jackson said.

“The grit interceptor is on one side of the trail and the outfall is on the other side,” she explained, so they’ll have to fence off this part of the trail during construction. Work on this interceptor is set to start in mid-December, and will likely take about three months.

The rest of the interceptors are set to go in before 2020, Jackson said. If they work, they should reduce the rate of infilling in the Sturgeon.

Questions on the interceptors should go to Jackson at 780-459-1746.

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St. Albert Gazette

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