Closure requirements still in effect with forfeiture of Shawnigan Lake landfill, province says

Closure requirements still in effect with forfeiture of Shawnigan Lake landfill, province says
Megan Thomas/CBC
An image of the controversial soil dumpsite in Shawnigan Lake.

The B.C. government says the forfeiture of the lands owned by Cobble Hill Holdings to the province does not change the closure plan for the company’s landfill near Shawnigan Lake.

The government also says the forfeiture does not change access to the site.

The landfill — a soil dumpsite — was supposed to be closed by Oct. 30, but the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy has extended the deadline for the closure plan to August 31, 2020, based on “careful consideration of environmental risks.”

The landfill, located at the old quarry in the hills above Shawnigan Lake, has been the subject of controversy for years. In 2013, its owner, Cobble Hill Holdings Ltd. received a permit to store contaminated soil.

In 2017, the province pulled the permit after it said the company failed to provide documents proving financial security.

According to the province, as a result of outstanding taxes, the provincial government will now begin the certificate of the forfeiture process to take over ownership of the land.

A change in ownership does not affect the Spill Prevention Order or the closure plan, the government says. Both remain in effect, as do any associated environmental monitoring obligations.

The parties named on the spill prevention order – referred to as the “named parties”- remain responsible for implementing the closure plan.

The provincial government says to date, the named parties have followed the plan and its approval conditions:

  • Two new shallow monitoring wells and a new seepage blanket well were installed Nov. 4 and Nov. 6, 2019, in advance of the Nov. 18 deadline.
  • The objective of those installations is to improve the groundwater monitoring network next to the landfill.
  • The comprehensive pre-winter inspection under the supervision of a qualified professional was completed on Nov. 12 in advance of the Nov. 18 deadline. No upgrades or maintenance were found to be required.
  • The named parties have submitted the draft quality management plan, the pre-winter inspection report and the slope stability report. The ministry is reviewing these documents.

The property is still permitted under the Mines Act and is therefore closed to the public. For safety reasons, people are not permitted to enter the site at any time. The government says the site could result in both injury and prosecution.

The Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy will continue to oversee compliance with the spill prevention order and its implementation. Failure to comply with closure plan requirements will result in increased compliance and enforcement actions, including fines and prosecution.

The closure plan, decided earlier this year,  doesn’t call for the removal of the contaminated soil. Some residents feel the contaminated soil could affect groundwater quality in the region, which is a 45-minute drive from Victoria.

With files from All Points West, Laura Sciarpelletti, CBC


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