Cobble Hill Holdings is suing the province over its decision last February to pull the permit for its contaminated soil landfill near Shawnigan Lake. The controversial project was the focus of demonstrations and lawsuits from the community for years. (File photo)

Cobble Hill Holdings sues province over lost operating permit

Owner of contaminated soil landfill near Shawnigan Lake also names Mary Polak in suit

The owner of a quarry in Shawnigan Lake that the Province used as a contaminated soil landfill is now suing provincial government and the former minister of environment who shut it down.

Sonia Furstenau said Cobble Hill Holdings’ decision to file a lawsuit over the rescinding of the permit is a “surprising development”. The Cowichan Valley’s Green MLA was a leader in the long but successful fight by the community to shut down landfill.

She said that while former Environment Minister Mary Polak pulled Cobble Hill Holdings’ operating permit in February because the company failed to meet financial requirements, the community has always maintained that its main concern with the project was due to the potential that the facility could introduce contaminants to its watershed.

Furstenau said she will continue to work with the government to ensure that the landfill site is properly cleaned up and no longer poses a risk to the health and safety of the residents of Shawnigan.

“We must also take this opportunity to ensure that what happened in Shawnigan never happens to another community,” she said.

“British Columbians deserve to have proper due diligence done on projects that impact them.”

Cobble Hill Holdings filed suit in B.C. Supreme Court earlier this week against the province and Polak, who is still the Liberal MLA for Langley.

The company said it is seeking general damages, special damages, aggravated damages, punitive damages, special costs and any other relief the court “may deem fit to grant.”

No amounts were specified other than “to be assessed.”

No statement of defence has been filed to date, either by Polak or the province.

Mike Kelly and Marty Block, owners of Cobble Hill Holdings, said in an interview with the Citizen in March that the company is out approximately $20 million after Polak pulled its operating permit, and they intended to sue to recover some or all of their financial investment into the project.

“The ministry has caused us lots of damage since we opened, and we’re looking to have those damages compensated,” Kelly said at the time

The company’s permit had allowed the site to receive and store up to 100,000 tonnes of contaminated soil a year.

In a letter at the time from the ministry to Cobble Hill Holdings and South Island Aggregates, the other partner in the project, the companies were given 15 business days to provide three required documents, but submitted only two prior to the deadline given.

Specifically, the ministry claimed the company failed to provide the province with adjusted financial security in the form of an irrevocable letter of credit in its decision to pull the permit.

“Cobble Hill Holdings has been provided multiple opportunities to respond to outstanding non-compliances and has repeatedly missed deadlines with respect to its permit requirements,” the ministry’s letter said.

Robert.Barron@cowichanvalleycitizen.com

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