'Important moment': Court orders halt to soil dumping at Shawnigan Lake site
The BC Supreme Court has ruled that a controversial soil dump positioned above Shawnigan Lake’s drinking watershed is not a permitted land use for the site.
It’s a key victory for residents who have been fighting to stop the site from operating in their community for years.
The court said that the contaminated soil facility at 640 Stebbings Road is “not a permitted use on the property” under current zoning bylaws, bringing an end to one of two court battles being waged by the Cowichan Valley Regional District.
The CVRD had argued the soil dump contravened its land-use bylaws.
In the ruling, the judge also slapped the company with an injunction that bars further importing of contaminated soil.
South Island Resources Management, the company that operates the site, said it is complying with the court's orders and said Cobble Hill Holdings, which owns the property, is considering an appeal.
"It is important to understand this decision deals with only one aspect of our operation," the company said in a statement. "We continue to operate the mine and manage the material already on site."
SIRM said its legal team is reviewing the implications of the court's decision and will release another statement "once we have a full understanding of the impact to our operation."
A spokesperson for Cobble Hill Holdings issued a statement that clarified the decision, saying the court did not order a stop to all activities on the property.
"The decision deals with one aspect of what the court has called landfilling. Cobble Hill Holdings Ltd. is reviewing the decision and will be carefully considering the advisability of an appeal," the statement said. "It will be speaking to all affected persons and getting advice about the next steps."
Mike Kelly, the president of Cobble Hill Holdings, declined to comment when contacted by CTV News, referencing a recent W5 investigation into the soil dump dispute.
"After the W5 report. Don't call me anymore," Kelly told CTV reporter Scott Cunningham.
CVRD residents and officials celebrated the win after it was announced Monday morning.
"This is hugely important to our community," said CVRD chair Jon Lefebure. "The community expects that the bylaws are in place to protect us from what we see as inappropriate activity, and it appears from this decision, that they are both in effect and will be recognized. So it's a very important moment, and we're very optimistic that this will help us deal with a difficult situation in Shawnigan Lake."
However, the judge declined to order the removal of contaminated soil currently on the property – citing “the difficulty in enforcing a mandatory injunction,” and leaving the matter to the Ministry of Environment and Environmental Appeal Board.
Residents are still waiting for the outcome of a judicial review of an Environmental Appeal Board to grant a permit to South Island Aggregates to operate the dump.
The Shawnigan Residents Association has said it is concerned contaminants from soil dumped at the site could leach into the lake, which also serves as the community’s drinking watershed.