Some Cowichan Valley residents are outraged the provincial Ministry of Environment has moved closer to allowing the dumping of contaminated soil from Victoria near Shawnigan Lake.
The ministry on Tuesday issued a draft permit to South Island Aggregates, which hopes to expand its gravel quarry business by allowing contaminated waste to be dumped in mined pits.
After two weeks of public consultation, the ministry will make a decision on issuing the full operating permit, with conditions, to the gravel business on Stebbings Road south of Shawnigan Lake.
“Shawnigan residents stand to live with the absurdity of officially sanctioned contaminated soil in their headwaters basin and the potential negative effects on public health and property values for the fleeting financial enrichment of others,” said Rob Hutchins, chairman of the Cowichan Valley Regional District, in a letter to Environment Minister Terry Lake.
He urged Lake to deny the South Island Aggregates application “before the damage is done.”
The community is “absolutely furious” that the ministry is moving ahead with the application, said Bruce Fraser, Shawnigan’s area director on the CVRD.
The approval follows public meetings held by the gravel company, the CVRD and the Shawnigan Residents’ Association where residents spoke against the importation of contaminated soil into the Cowichan Valley.
“People have the impression that the public consultation had absolutely no impact on the decision-making,” Fraser said.
A copy of the draft permit will be provided to everyone who participated in the previous public consultation, said a statement issued by the ministry Tuesday. The 23-page document is available on the ministry’s website.
This is the time for people “to bring forward any new information which has not [been] raised to date for consideration,” the ministry’s statement said.
“Staff will review any new issues raised and consider the public’s input to evaluating whether to proceed with issuing the permit,” the statement said.
The draft permit includes conditions related to acceptable material for treatment. It stipulates air, soil, surface and groundwater monitoring requirements as well as discharge quantity and quality requirements, the statement said.
While the ministry says all contaminated soils are tested at the site of origin before they are transferred to disposal sites, Fraser said there have been numerous cases where contaminated soils have been billed as clean.
“At least one set of loads came in with contaminated soil when it didn’t have the correct permit,” Fraser said.
It’s “insane” to put contaminated soil in a watershed that serves 7,000 people, he said.
Fraser calls the level of public consultation done so far by the gravel company and the ministry “minimal,” and the public didn’t get satisfactory responses to their concerns.
He said it’s ironic the draft permit was issued during Canada Water Week.
“The irony and insensitivity of it is quite staggering,” Fraser said.
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