The owners of a contaminated soil landfill uphill from Shawnigan Lake have been ordered to take immediate steps to prevent the release of polluted water during storms this week.
The Ministry of Environment issued a pollution-prevention order against Cobble Hill Holdings Ltd. on Wednesday, after a recent spill at the quarry on Stebbings Road. A.J. Downie, an authorizations director, stated in the order that he has reason to believe the site is operating “in a manner that is likely to release untreated contact water from the property into the environment and cause pollution.”
The order said that site operator South Island Resource Management reported a spill Saturday after rain eroded a layer of sand on top of the landfill. The sand clogged ditches that were supposed to collect “contact” water coming off the contaminated soil.
As a result, about 3,000 to 6,000 gallons of “untreated contact water spilled onto the property, mixed with non-contact water, flowed into the settling pond and subsequently discharged to the environment,” the order said.
Downie noted that the landfill is still uncovered and that sand remains on the surface.
He ordered that the company act by midnight Wednesday to:
• completely cover the landfill with a weighted, impermeable cover
• protect the cover from weather conditions
• maintain and, if necessary, dig lined ditches to catch all contact water
• put backup systems in place to store water on site or transport it to another authorized facility
• do regular inspections and collect daily water samples
Representatives of Cobble Hill Holdings and South Island Resource Management were unavailable for comment on Wednesday.
The ministry said in a statement that Cobble Hill Holdings has received warnings about non-compliance of its contaminated soil permit in the past.
“Ministry staff will continue to monitor for compliance during the expected heavy rainfall event anticipated over the next few days and take appropriate actions to mitigate any risks to human health and the environment,” the statement said.
Sonia Furstenau, area director with the Cowichan Valley Regional District, said the ministry needs to do more than monitor and mitigate risks.
“As a community, we have been warning the ministry for years that this is the wrong location for this landfill site,” she said. “And we would really like to see them acknowledge and recognize that and to solve the problem that they’ve created in our watershed. We want the soil gone.”
Calvin Cook, president of the Shawnigan Residents Association, said the latest spill only confirms people’s fears. “Now we have a big storm coming in tonight that everybody’s warning us about,” he said. “More rainfall on the weekend. And it’s a very uncomfortable situation for everybody in Shawnigan.”
The ministry issued Cobble Hill Holdings a permit in 2013 to receive and store up to 100,000 tonnes of contaminated soil a year at its quarry.
The permit was upheld by the Environmental Appeal Board in 2015, but the site remains the subject of ongoing court challenges by the regional district and local residents who fear contaminants will pollute their water supply.
> Three storms this week, A3
> Weather details, B12