Malahat First Nation backs stay of Shawnigan soil-dump permit

The Malahat First Nation is backing efforts to stay the permit of a contaminated-soil dump near Shawnigan Lake.

The First Nation appeared in B.C. Supreme Court Thursday seeking to support a stay application by the Shawnigan Residents Association.

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The Malahat told court that, when it agreed to support the landfill in 2012, it was unaware of an alleged secret partnership agreement between the landfill’s owners and the engineers who did a technical assessment of the site.

“There is a serious allegation that material information was not shared with the Malahat in the consultation which induced them to enter into an agreement to support the project,” said lawyer Jeff Langlois, representing the Malahat.

The Malahat said in a statement that a stay would give it time to “come to a properly informed decision on this project.” The court will decide today whether to hear its arguments in support of staying the permit.

Cobble Hill Holdings Ltd., which owns the landfill at 460 Stebbings Rd., has a permit to receive up to 100,000 tonnes of contaminated soil a year at the site.

The Environmental Appeal Board upheld the permit last year.

Victoria lawyer John Alexander, representing Cobble Hill, told the court Thursday that the Malahat has its own contaminated-soil landfill. “They’re a competitor.”

He also questioned the timing of the Malahat application so late in the court process, saying the band has known for some time about the allegations. “This isn’t something they’ve just learned about at all,” he said.

Cobble Hill says the partnership agreement with its engineers was never completed and was not in force at the time of the Environment Appeal Board hearings.

The Shawnigan Residents Association says the deal was concealed from the appeal board and that the permit should be stayed. Residents fear contaminants could seep from the site and pollute the region’s water supply.

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