Strong condemnation of the Ministry of Environment’s decision to issue a draft permit allowing dumping of contaminated soil from Victoria in Shawnigan Lake’s watershed came from within B.C. Liberal Party ranks Wednesday.
The draft permit is valid for two weeks, during which the Ministry of Environment is accepting public input. Then, the ministry may give the OK to transport contaminated soil to South Island Aggregates.
Among the harshest critics is Steve Housser, who calls himself a “concerned Shawnigan resident who just happens to be a Liberal candidate” in the May 14 provincial election.
Housser, who has lived in the Shawnigan area for 13 years, said he’s “absolutely, dramatically opposed” to the dumping of contaminated soil at the gravel company’s facility on Stebbings Road.
“It just strikes me as absolute lunacy,” said Housser during a break from door-knocking on Wednesday afternoon.
Housser, 64, covered politics for the CBC before he joined the Liberal riding association and decided to run to be an MLA.
Housser said he doesn’t see any connection between the Liberals and his opposition to the contaminated soil dump.
“My understanding is this isn’t the minister but a bureaucratic gnome in Nanaimo who is under some statutory obligation to respond to permits and deal with them insulated from any political interference,” he said.
On the doorsteps, people are saying they are livid about the issue, Housser said.
Though it may be too late to stop the permit from being issued, he will “fight to get it revoked,” he said.
Housser has organized a public meeting for March 25 at 7 p.m. at the lounge of the Shawnigan Lake Community Centre. He hopes those who attend will agree on a way to move forward in opposing the matter.
NDP environment critic Rob Fleming said Wednesday said he doesn’t know how the matter got this far.
“Why are Shawnigan residents facing an imminent permit issuance for something they’ll have to live with for decades of their lives?” Fleming asked.
He’s critical of the Liberal government for not updating legislation so drinking water is protected.
“The Drinking Water Protection Act should supersede the Waste Management Act when you’re putting 7,000 residents’ water supply at risk,” Fleming said.
Bill Routley, the NDP MLA for the Cowichan Valley, wrote Environment Minister Terry Lake on Wednesday and demanded the permit be denied.
“The very viability of Shawnigan Lake as a livable community is at stake,” Routley said.
There are five wells within 250 metres of the proposed landfill site, he said.
“Shawnigan Lake’s essential connection to clean, uncontaminated water is at risk of being permanently damaged.”
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