Victoria city councillor wades into Shawnigan Lake water fight
CTV Vancouver Island
Published Friday, January 8, 2016 11:54AM PST
Last Updated Saturday, January 9, 2016 7:31PM PST
A Victoria city councillor says he has submitted a motion calling on the B.C. government to pull the permit for a contaminated soil dump in Shawnigan Lake.
Coun. Jeremy Loveday announced the motion on Twitter two days after one of the largest demonstrations yet at the South Island Resource Management site, some 50 kilometres away from Victoria City Hall.
He also tagged Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps and Coun. Ben Isitt in the tweet, who are co-signatories on the motion.
"The City of Victoria supports the residents of Shawnigan Lake, Cowichan Tribes, and the Cowichan Valley Regional District in calling on the Province of British Columbia to invoke the precautionary principle and revoke the permit for the property at 460 Stebbings Road in Shawnigan Lake," the motion reads.
It also cites significant "conflicting hydrogeological and technical opinions about the risk the facility poses to the natural environment and to people's drinking water."
The tweet was in response to an aerial photo of Shawnigan Lake students spelling “Save Our Lake” on a field.
Loveday told CTV News the issue might not affect constituents in Victoria, but as a water commissioner, he wants to lend support to Shawnigan Lake residents.
Hundreds of protesters waved signs and blocked transport trucks on Wednesday as members of the media and politicians were given helicopter tours of the controversial dump.
Frustrated residents have been fighting against the dump for years over concerns contaminants in the soil are leaching into the town’s watershed.
They’ve launched social media campaigns demanding Environment Minister Mary Polak and Premier Christy Clark suspend the company’s permit.
Despite a contamination scare last fall when water from the site reportedly ran off into the lake, the ministry and SIRM maintain there is no evidence that the dump poses any risk to public health.
Mike Kelly, president of Cobble Hill Holdings, which owns the site, said in an email statement that the ministry conducted inspections at the site four times in November alone after the run-off was reported, but operations were found to be satisfactory.
He said the group opposing the site "simply refuse to accept the results, and continue to make statements that are incorrect, and inappropriate."
Polak also issued a rare statement amid the ongoing protests, saying "the original decision to grant the permit was made by a ministry statutory decision maker who is a technical expert, independent of any political process."
She said the ministry hires qualified professionals to review such applications, monitor for non-compliance issues and carry out enforcement when needed.
"As minister, I must respect the independence of ministry technical experts and ensure that I do not act without appropriate evidence," she said.
Ongoing protests at the site have seen a female protester roughed up on camera by a truck driver, and on Wednesday, SIRM claimed a protester trespassed onto the site, forcing it to temporarily suspend operations out of safety concerns.
City council is expected to vote on the motion Thursday.
Full text of the motion below:
- WHEREAS the Province of British Columbia has approved a contaminated soils facility that permits the dumping of five million tons of highly contaminated material near the headwaters of the Shawnigan Lake drinking water watershed, which supplies drinking water to 12,000 people;
- AND WHEREAS Cowichan Tribes, residents of Shawnigan Lake, and the Boards of the Cowichan Valley Regional District and Capital Regional District have expressed opposition to the dumping of contaminated material in drinking water watersheds;
- AND WHEREAS there are significant conflicting hydrogeological and technical opinions about the risk the facility poses to the natural environment and to people's drinking water;
- THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT the City of Victoria supports the residents of Shawnigan Lake, Cowichan Tribes, and the Cowichan Valley Regional District in calling on the Province of British Columbia to invoke the precautionary principle and revoke the permit for the property at 460 Stebbings Road in Shawnigan Lake;
- AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT the City of Victoria forward this resolution to the Province of British Columbia, requesting that contaminated site regulations be amended to provide for thorough and appropriate consideration of local government input and land use regulations in the contaminated soils permitting process.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported Cobble Hill Holdings as the parent company of South Island Resource Management. Cobble Hill Holdings holds no ownership in SIRM, which operates the site.