Court asked to halt Shawnigan soil dump after documents surface

The Shawnigan Residents Association has gone to B.C. Supreme Court to have a contaminated-soil facility in the area shut down temporarily while it seeks information about an agreement related to the operation.

The agreement involves the companies behind the facility and Active Earth Engineering, the firm that assessed it, said association president Calvin Cook.

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“What’s happened is we’ve been presented with documentation — and we’re just trying to determine whether it’s authentic or not — [that] would certainly indicate there’s a partnership agreement,” Cook said.

“Unfortunately, that would put Active Earth in a conflict, in that they were supposed to be just providing the science. Those professional firms, they’re supposed to be at arm’s length.”

The soil facility, owned by Cobble Hill Holdings Ltd. and run by South Island Aggregates, can receive up to 100,000 tonnes of contaminated soil a year under terms of a permit approved by the Environmental Appeal Board. The soil is dumped in a quarry on Stebbings Road, near Shawnigan Lake.

In an email to the Times Colonist, Cobble Hill Holdings president Mike Kelly said the residents association has “misinterpreted” the document and its significance.

He said that an agreement signed in February 2013 by Cobble Hill Holdings and Active Earth came about because both parties believed the permit would be issued soon.

“However, there were no steps taken to act under that agreement,” Kelly said. “The parties simply changed their minds and the agreement was abandoned thereafter.

“Abandoned discussions regarding compensation do not compromise the professional integrity of qualified persons who are subject to ethical requirements to protect human health and the environment.”

The association made its court filing Thursday and has requested the original document be made available within five business days.

“In this case, documents would indicate — or certainly what I’ve been presented, they appear to be authentic — that a company was formed in 2013 between South Island Aggregates and Active Earth, structured such that they would have a joint venture and a joint 50-50 partner sharing,” Cook said.

The information came to the association from an interested individual, he said. “They were just delivered to our office in Shawnigan Lake here by somebody who I guess felt quite strongly about what was going on and was aware of these documents, and kind of went out on a limb and provided them to us.”

Kelly said it appears that what was delivered to the association had been stolen and he is investigating.

He said people at Active Earth are “qualified professionals” who act under a code of ethics. Residents have been expressing their concern about the dump site for some time, and expressed disappointment in an Environmental Appeal Board ruling in March that said the permit should stand. The association went to the B.C. Supreme Court in May with a filing that calls for a judicial review.

jwbell@timescolonist.com

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