Access is restricted to land around the Sooke Reservoir, the source of potable water for much of the Capital Regional District — we don’t want people stomping around there and threatening the purity of our water supply.
But it seems there’s nothing wrong with dumping contaminated soil from Greater Victoria into the Cowichan Valley’s watershed.
Provincial legislation mandates that the watershed around the Sooke Reservoir be protected, yet it’s the province that provides the permits for taking soil from the capital region and dumping it near Shawnigan Lake.
Understandably, some Cowichan Valley residents are outraged.
The Environment Ministry has issued a draft permit to South Island Aggregates to allow waste to be dumped in its mined gravel pits. The ministry will make a decision on issuing a full operating permit after two weeks of public consultation.
The material must meet certain conditions, and the permit sets standards for monitoring the air, surface, soil and groundwater. The province says all contaminated soils are tested at the point of origin, but Bruce Fraser, Shawnigan’s area director on the Cowichan Valley Regional District, says there have been cases where soil certified as clean was found to be contaminated.
The regional district can only state its objections — unlike a city, it does not have the authority to prohibit the dumping of contaminated soil within its boundaries. That’s up to the province, and Cowichan Valley residents nervous about their water supply don’t seem to have a lot of faith in provincial officials. They say their concerns are not being heard.
No matter what regulations are in place concerning the quality of the dumped material, there’s risk to the watershed. The province cannot make ironclad guarantees that the local water supply won’t be affected by the material being brought in.
The people affected should be heard, and their concerns should be cleared up before putting their environment at risk.
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