Many residents of Shawnigan Lake, who had protested for years to remove a contaminated soil facility, are not happy with tentative plans to leave the soil at the now closed site in place. (File photo)

Contaminated soil to stay at contentious Shawnigan Lake site?

Reaction: “The community would lose their minds if this plan proceeds.”

Tentative final closure plans for the contaminated soil site near Shawnigan Lake are not being well received by residents.

Sierra Acton, Shawnigan Lake’s director with the Cowichan Valley Regional District, said not only does the plan propose leaving the approximately 100,000 tonnes of contaminated soil at the site in place, it also calls for trucking in 70,000 additional tonnes of industrial grade fill to help cap the existing soil.

“The community would lose their minds if this plan proceeds,” Acton said.

“It’s completely unacceptable to consider leaving the contaminated soil at the site.”

It’s been more than two years since the controversial landfill finally closed when its operating permit was pulled from its owners, Cobble Hill Holdings and South Island Aggregates, by the province after years of lawsuits and demonstrations.

RELATED STORY: SOIL COMPANIES TO CLOSE SHAWNIGAN CONTAMINATED SOIL QUARRY PERMANENTLY

It’s also been a full year since members of the SRA and their supporters took to the streets for their “Rally for Removal” event that called for all the contaminated soil at the closed site to be removed as soon as possible.

RELATED STORY: SHAWNIGAN RESIDENTS RALLYING TO DEMAND CONTAMINATED SOIL REMOVAL

A document from the Shawnigan Residents Association states that the province has already given provisional approval to the closure plan, prepared by Sperling Hansen Associates, a B.C.-based company specializing in solid waste management, on behalf of the owners.

The document states that on Jan. 4, 2019, representatives of the Shawnigan Research Group, which has been monitoring the site for years, met with officials from the Ministry of Environment and the president of Sperling Hansen Associates to review the proposed final closure plan.

“It is the opinion of the SRG that this improved final closure plan has as many flaws in it as the previous closure plans,” the document states.

“When the SRG highlighted the problems present in the plan, the response was that the contaminated soil is sealed in such a way that no additional water can enter and, ultimately, the soil will be so dry that no leachate will be generated; therefore the environment will be protected.”

RELATED STORY: SHAWNIGAN RESIDENTS AWARDED SOME OF $700K COURT COSTS IN CONTAMINATED SOIL CASE

But the document claims that it was disclosed at the meeting that Sperling Hansen Associates were not informed that many tonnes of elemental sulphur are present in the contaminated soil at the landfill.

“This is, of course, material to the closure plan and it was disappointing to learn that the SHA plan did not consider it,” said the document.

Comments from Sperling Hansen Associates were not received by press time.

Officials from the ministry will be meeting with the SRA and other representatives from the community on April 16 to provide an update on the status of the site and the closure plan that has been provided by Sperling Hansen Associates and Cobble Hill Holdings.

A ministry statement said the spill-prevention order, originally issued in January, 2017, remains in effect to lessen the risk of an escape or spill of contaminants from the landfill.

“Though the landfill site is no longer operating, the company is still responsible for maintaining and monitoring the site, and undertaking any required actions in accordance with the spill-prevention order,” the statement said.

“The ministry continues to monitor this site closely and is carefully reviewing the final closure plan submitted in accordance with the spill-prevention order to inform a decision on the next steps for the site.”

Sonia Furstenau, the MLA for the Cowichan Valley, was one the leaders of the campaign to shut down the contaminated soil site when she was the director for Shawnigan Lake at the CVRD.

RELATED STORY: MLA FURSTENAU BEING SUED BY CONTAMINATED SOIL SITE OWNERS

She said she and other advocates have made it clear to the government that they want nothing less than all of the contaminated soil at the site removed.

“We’ve always said that we have not completed our work until the soil is removed,” Furstenau said.

“It’s been more than two years now since the operation was closed, and it’s frustrating for many in the community that the soil is still there.”

Furstenau said there’s plenty of evidence that there currently are much higher amounts of contaminants like sulphur and chlorine in the streams and waterways below the site than above it, evidence that contaminants are leaching from the site.

“The whole process since this project was first announced and given a provincial permit to operate has been a tragedy of errors,” she said.

“The site was never an appropriate location for the contaminated soil from the beginning.”



robert.barron@cowichanvalleycitizen.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

UVic science and engineering research gets $18.8 million federal funding boost

Funding for engineering, science, sustainability research

Horse carriage supporters to rally outside city hall

Owner of carriage company plans rally in response to Coun. Ben Isitt’s motion

Victoria woman competing for role as Maxim cover model

Winning model gets featured spread in magazine, cash price

11th annual Sooke Secret Garden Tour offering eight locations

June 2 event a fundraiser for Sooke Philharmonic Society

Killer of Calgary mother, daughter gets no parole for 50 years

A jury found Edward Downey guilty last year in the deaths of Sara Baillie, 34, and five-year-old Taliyah Marsman

Raptors beat Bucks 120-102 to even series at 2-2

Lowry pours in 25 as Toronto moves within two games of NBA Finals

Body of missing snowmobiler recovered from Great Slave Lake

Police confirm the body is that of one of three missing snowmobilers

Christmas morning burglar sentenced on Vancouver Island

Justin Redmond Feusse, 20, sentenced to 240 days in jail for Dec. 25 break-and-enter

So, do you know ‘Dave from Vancouver Island’?

Ontario man searching for fellow he travelled with in Europe 50 years ago

Toddler seriously injured after falling from Okanagan balcony

RCMP are investigating after a two-year-old boy fell from the balcony of an apartment in Kelowna

Mamma Mia! Here we go again at Sooke’s EMCS theatre

Production of Mamma Mi! features ABBA tunes that leave you humming

Cost jumps 35% for Trans-Canada Highway widening in B.C.

Revelstoke-area stretch first awarded under new union deal

Is vegan food a human right? Ontario firefighter battling B.C. blaze argues it is

Adam Knauff says he had to go hungry some days because there was no vegan food

Most Read