Environment Ministry 'satisfied' with Shawnigan soil dump

The Ministry of Environment says it is satisfied with operations at a contaminated-soil landfill near Shawnigan Lake despite concerns raised by a recent engineering report prepared for the Cowichan Valley Regional District.

The ministry wrote the CVRD on Thursday to say that its request for a detailed assessment of water-management systems at the Cobble Hill Holdings site will be met.

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But the ministry said that some of the concerns raised by the CVRD’s engineering report may have been based on incomplete information or without a full understanding of the permit.

Ministry director A.J. Downie said staff have been working hard to address concerns about the Stebbings Road property.

“Ministry staff have received in excess of 50 individual complaints and queries, and staff have conducted four inspections of the [South Island Aggregates] site since Nov. 12, 2015,” he said in the Dec. 3 letter. “At this time we are satisfied with the permittee’s response to date and their planned activities.

“No further action is contemplated by the ministry at this time.”

The CVRD hired its own engineering firm following a suspected overflow of stormwater runoff from the landfill during heavy rainfall on Nov. 13.

The report highlighted a number of concerns with the site’s water-management system that prompted B.C. Green MLA Andrew Weaver to call for the facility to be closed.

But the ministry’s letter to the CVRD said some of the concerns have been addressed by ditches and swales that will prevent the uncontrolled flow of surface water off the property. It said the Environmental Appeal Board knew about some of the other issues when it upheld the permit.

Downie said the ministry’s testing has shown that any water that left the property was “non-contact stormwater runoff, which had not come into contact with contaminated soil.”

In a separate media statement and letter to Cobble Hill Holdings last week, the ministry said the company is complying with its permit to accept up to 100,000 tonnes of contaminated soil a year at the former quarry.

“After reviewing the information provided to date, as well as a followup inspection by the ministry conducted on Dec. 2, the ministry is satisfied that the permittee is currently taking reasonable steps to address the water management concerns which were raised in mid-November,” Jennifer McGuire, the executive director of the regional operations branch, said Thursday in a letter to the company.

Shawnigan residents, meanwhile, have vowed to continue their fight against the facility in court. They fear that contaminants will leach from the site uphill from Shawnigan Lake and eventually pollute their water supply.

The Shawnigan Residents Association is pursuing a judicial review of the permit in hopes of getting it overturned.



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