Two protesters arrested at Shawnigan soil dump

Demonstrators attempting to block trucks from entering the site of a Shawnigan Lake landfill were arrested Friday as the battle over a soil dump on the site heated up.

Two protesters were arrested at 8:30 a.m. near a site owned by Cobble Hill Holdings, which has been granted a Ministry of Environment permit to process contaminated soil.

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Area residents are asking the B.C. Supreme Court for a judicial review of the permit obtained by Cobble Hill Holdings Ltd. and its related company, South Island Aggregates Ltd. They believe the soil could expose their drinking water to contamination.

“The issue here is that [the soil] goes underground, and where it goes from there nobody can say with 100 per cent certainty,” said Calvin Cook, president of the Shawnigan Lake Residents Association.

Cpl. Darren Lagan, media relations officer for Vancouver Island RCMP, said two protesters blocking the roadway were asked to move but did not comply.

Jay Huumonen, 37, a Duncan resident, and Carolyn Dowell, 51, of Shawnigan Lake, were arrested. The two were released on a promise to appear in Duncan court on Jan. 26.

Dowell said protesters were served with a civil action Tuesday afternoon at the dump site. A B.C. Supreme Court judge issued an interim order Thursday barring people from impeding or blocking trucks.

“We knew if we came back here we were not following the [order],” Dowell said. “We knew that we would get arrested.”

Protesters will remain until a review of the permit is granted, Cook said.

“We don’t want to see people arrested, but people are frustrated,” he said. “The Ministry of Environment has a duty to protect the environment, and [Environment Minister Mary Polak] has failed to do that in this case.”

The soil-treatment permit, issued in 2013, was upheld by the environmental appeal board in March. It was amended in June with additional requirements.

New information has come to light since then, Cook said. “There are enough inconsistencies and inaccuracies in the science to warrant a judicial review. It’s just the wrong site.”

The company could not be reached for comment.

On Friday, Island Health issued a no-water use advisory for the south end of Lake Shawnigan, due to a suspected overflow of water from the site.

Island Health said the Environment Ministry was investigating and that water tests would be conducted.

The Cowichan Valley Regional District has previously expressed concern that contaminated water is flowing from the property into Shawnigan Creek.

Polak said last week that the ministry stands by its belief that the site poses “no immediate danger” based on test results to date.

mdevlin@timescolonist.com

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