Shawnigan Lake residents call on B.C. government to order removal of contaminated soil


Shawnigan Lake residents were out Friday morning calling for the B.C. government to move contaminated soil near their water source.

Shawnigan Lake residents were out Friday morning calling for the B.C. government to move contaminated soil near their water source.

Residents of Shawnigan Lake were out early Friday morning calling on the provincial government to order the removal of contaminated soil near their source of water.

“We never gave permission in the first place, and it needs to go” said property owner Marnie Haire.

The rally was organized by the Shawnigan Residents Association demanded more than 100,000 tonnes of contaminated soil be taken away near Shawnigan Lake.

“I think we need to remove the soil…Maybe right now you don’t see things leaching out, but it’s not going to last, and this needs to go,” added Haire.

The company had a permit issued in 2013 to store the contaminated soil at its quarry. But, the soil is still there and residents are fed up.

“It should have never happened so of course it is taking too long,” says local Mark Granfar.

Protester signs read “Save Our Shawnigan Water” and other boards that condemned the environmental impact of the site.

On Jan. 24, 2017, residents won a significant court battle when Justice Robert Sewell found that the engineering company Active Earth, hired to independently access the project, acted improperly.

Less than a month later, Cobble Hill Holdings had its permit revoked.

Now, Shawnigan Lake residents who have had concerns for the safety of their water for years want Environment Minister George Heyman to remove it to a new location.

“The only option is removal, and they would have to remove it to an appropriate site,” says Sierra Acton who works with the Cowichan Valley Regional District.

When the environment ministry pulled the permit, former minister Mary Polak couldn’t say how or when it would be removed, saying it was the responsibility of the company.

This past August, Cobble Hill Holdings filed a lawsuit against the province and Polak saying it suffered financially and was seeking general, special and aggregate damages, along with special costs and other relief.

On Thursday, Cowichan Valley Green Party MLA Sonia Furstenau introduced a private member’s bill to prevent solid waste from being deposited in quarries.

“In Shawnigan Lake, the community is still dealing with the fallout from contaminated soil being dumped near our drinking water source,” said Furstenau in a release.

“This has led to costly legal challenges and a loss of trust in government agencies. Public trust is imperative for ensuring that projects can go ahead uncontested and that people have faith that their government is looking out for their health and safety.”

The bill would not allow companies to have permits for waste disposal where solid waste would be dumped in sand and gravel pits, and quarries above sensitive aquifers.

Furstenau says in the meantime, the community can’t just sit and wait.

“Closure isn’t appropriate. This is is a community drinking watershed that we want future generations to be able to count on for clean drinking and safe drinking water. Leaving this soil here, puts that all at risk.”

Andy NealAndy Neal

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