Nine arrested, released at Shawnigan Lake soil landfill protest

The RCMP arrested nine people Tuesday for blocking a roadway outside a contaminated soil landfill near Shawnigan Lake.

The nine, who were later released without charge, were among 200 people protesting near the Stebbings Road property owned by Cobble Hill Holdings Ltd., RCMP said.

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Cpl. Janelle Shoihet, a media relations officer at E Division headquarters in Surrey, said the nine were arrested for blocking vehicles on the road despite a court injunction against impeding traffic.

“They were given the opportunity to move and then they maintained their position on the roadway and so they were arrested because they were breaching the injunction,” she said.

There were no injuries and “the arrests were without incident,” Shoihet said.

Former provincial Liberal candidate Steve Housser, a vocal opponent of the landfill, said the protest began at 6:30 a.m. and lasted until about 11 a.m.

It was designed, he said, to demonstrate residents’ ongoing opposition to the landfill, which is located uphill from Shawnigan Lake and has a permit to receive and store up to 100,000 tonnes of contaminated soil a year.

The Ministry of Environment has declared the site safe, but opponents fear that contaminants eventually will leach from the landfill and pollute the region’s water supply.

Housser said the fact that 200 people took part in the protest on a chilly morning, three days before Christmas, shows residents’ resolve to keep fighting.

South Island Resource Management Ltd., which operates the landfill, warned Tuesday that it will take “all reasonable lawful action to stop dangerous and harmful behaviour” that puts the company at risk, as well as the welfare of its employees and others who rely on the operation.

“For months we have been the victim of a campaign of untruths and misstatements; now we are the victim of unlawful protest,” the company said in a statement. “We continue to hope reasonable debate will prevail.”

The company, which has a long-term agreement with Cobble Hill Holdings, said it operates within the law and upholds high standards of environmental safety.

“While we recognize the right for any individual to protest, such protest must be lawful and not impede our legal right to operate,” the statement said.

The RCMP, meanwhile, said it will continue to assess protests on a day-by-day basis.

“Our response will be based on what happens on that day,” Shoihet said. “We don’t want to assume or presume what will happen in the future. We’re really just monitoring the situation as each day passes.”

lkines@timescolonist.com

Shawnigan Lake soil landfill
Cobble Hill Holdings's Stebbings Road site

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