Victoria councillors press B.C. to respect soil-dump ruling

Two Victoria city councillors are calling on the B.C. government to respect a court ruling that found that a contaminated-soil landfill near Shawnigan Lake contravenes a regional zoning bylaw.

Ben Isitt and Jeremy Loveday plan to ask Victoria council today to endorse an emergency resolution for consideration by the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities at its conference in Nanaimo next month.

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The resolution calls on the province to respect local land-use authority as it pertains to contaminated soils.

Isitt described the resolution as a pre-emptive strike against the province in the wake of a B.C. Supreme Court ruling Monday. The court found that the contaminated-soil landfill on Stebbings Road is not a permitted a use under the Cowichan Valley Regional District’s bylaw and ordered a halt to further dumping.

“Even though the court has ruled that Cowichan Valley Regional District’s bylaw is valid, there’s a risk of a provincial Order in Council, which could override that and allow the dumping of the soils to resume,” Isitt said in an interview.

“This resolution is intended to be proactive, to have local governments on the Island express support for Cowichan Valley Regional District and to pre-emptively call on the province to respect the court’s ruling and to respect Cowichan’s bylaws.”

Environment Minister Mary Polak has not commented on the court ruling. Her office said Wednesday that staff are still reviewing the decision.

Polak’s ministry granted property owner, Cobble Hill Holdings Ltd., a permit to receive and store up to 100,000 tonnes of contaminated soil a year at its quarry. The Environmental Appeal Board upheld the permit last year, but the Shawnigan Residents Association is awaiting the results of a judicial review.

South Island Resource Management Ltd., which operates the site, issued a statement Monday saying it is complying with the court order against further dumping.

“It is important to understand this decision deals with only one aspect of our operation,” the statement said. “We continue to operate the mine and manage the material already on site.”

Isitt noted that he has sponsored resolutions about the Shawnigan issue before.

In January, Victoria council approved a resolution calling on the province to invoke the “precautionary principle” and revoke the landfill’s permit.

“I guess it’s kind of that idea of solidarity between local governments, and kind of standing shoulder-to-shoulder in protecting the health and well-being of our residents,” he said.

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