Shawnigan Lake residents slam provincial water inquiry
CTV Vancouver Island
Published Friday, July 17, 2015 2:53PM PDT
Last Updated Friday, July 17, 2015 6:55PM PDT
Frustrations have hit a boiling point in Shawnigan Lake for residents who say the government has not done enough to quell fears over their drinking water.
Ministry of Environment staff held a public meeting for concerned residents Thursday night to discuss test results taken from South Island Aggregates’ contaminated soil dump, which sits on a slope above Shawnigan Lake.
They shared results from groundwater, surface water, sediment and soil sampling done earlier in the year and said none of the samples exceed allowable levels for drinking water.
But some concerned residents say they walked away from the meeting with more questions than answers – because scientists only conducted surface sampling 50 centimetres down.
“It’s been three years since we’ve been able to ask questions directly of this Ministry and basically last night it was, ‘We’re not going to answer your questions,’” said Sonia Furstenau, area director for Shawnigan Lake. “So my question is, why did they not send somebody who could answer our questions? Where was the minister?”
Residents are now calling for the Ministry to dig much deeper for answers – some 250 feet down.
“At some point, enough truth is going to have to stop what’s going to happen at this site,” Furstenau said. “We’re so tired of this fight but we will not stop until we’ve won, because we’re in the right.”
Green Party deputy leader Andrew Weaver, who is MLA for Oak Bay-Gordon Head, said he has some concerns of his own after testing water found leaking out of the soil dump site.
Weaver said he found minor levels of heavy metals leeching into a creek which runs into Shawnigan Lake, but nothing that could pose danger to residents.
“There’s no question that, in my view, human health is okay right now,” he said.
But Weaver said the presence of contaminates, even though they don’t exceed allowable levels, should be cause for concern for the health ministry.
“In my view, due diligence has simply not been done to address the concerns of Shawnigan Lake residents,” he said.
But the president of the company that runs the contaminated soil dump said the government’s latest findings vindicates their position.
"Once again the Shawnigan Lake Residents Association's directors are continuing to look for a bogeyman under the bed,” said SIA president Mike Kelly. “And once again the testing results of today have proven squarely that he does not exist.”
The company has obtained all necessary permits to go ahead with the dumping of five-million tonnes of contaminated soil on its site, but is now confronting legal action launched by town residents to try to stop it.
The injunction, filed by the Shawnigan Residents’ Association, alleges the company had covertly inked a profit-sharing deal with scientists hired to complete an environmental impact assessment.
The company has argued it didn’t follow up on that arrangement, so the scientists weren’t in a conflict of interest.
The allegations have not been proven in court.
With files from CTV Vancouver Island's Scott Cunningham