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Province suspends permit for Shawnigan Lake soil dump
People who live in Shawnigan Lake say the ruling is vindication.
The B.C. government has suspended a key permit for a controversial contaminated soil dump in Shawnigan Lake over issues of non-compliance.
In a letter sent from Environment Minister Mary Polak to Cobble Hill Holdings, which owns the South Island Resource Management dump, the company is informed a waste discharge permit issued in 2013 has been suspended effective immediately.
“At this time, this failure to implement the recommendations of the final non-contact water management review report and the final contact water management review report is considered a non-compliance,” Polak wrote.
She also threatened to re-suspend or even cancel the permit outright “if I find that the report(s), once approved, are not being implemented in accordance with the schedule and workplan in the approved final report(s).”
The issue stems from non-compliance incidents in October and November last year after heavy rains led to untreated water spilling into the surrounding environment.
“I have provided multiple opportunities for CHH to respond to the outstanding non-compliances as evidenced in my letters of October 11, 2016, and November 4, 2016,” said Polak.
“However, I note that in deciding to suspend the permit I have taken into consideration several factors, such as CHH past non-compliances, including non-payment of permit fees.”
The company has been given 15 business days to respond with requested documents or the permit may be cancelled.
"My decision to suspend the waste discharge permit is based on information and advice from my staff, who are technical experts in their field," Polak said.
Earlier this week, a BC Supreme Court judge ordered the soil dump to stop accepting any new contaminated soil.
The judge found that the financial relationship between Active Earth engineering, the company that assessed the site, and CHH represented a conflict of interest, saying the relationship was concealed during an Environmental Appeal Board review.
The dump has been a point of contention for many in the small Cowichan Valley community because its pristine watershed is down a slope from the site.
Sonia Furstenau, a clean water activist who has led the town’s charge against the soil dump, said the community was heartened to hear the permit was suspended.
“We’ve been vindicated on both fronts this week,” she said. “With this suspension and Polak’s acknowledgement that there are significant problems with the site, and with the management of water at the site, this is what we’ve been saying for years.”
But she says the fight isn’t over yet, and the group’s next steps are to get the dump’s permit revoked permanently and to get the contaminated soil already there taken away.
“We’ll celebrate these victories this week, and then we will have to recover and recognize that this was a huge injustice.”
CTV News has reached out to representatives of Cobble Hill Holdings and South Island Resource Management for comment.