Shawnigan Lake soil fight not over yet as judge rules dumping can resume
South Island Aggregates' contaminated soil dump site in Shawnigan Lake, B.C. is shown in this undated file photo.
Published Friday, April 15, 2016 11:44AM PDT
Last Updated Friday, April 15, 2016 11:50AM PDT
Trucks can resume deliveries to a controversial contaminated soil dump in Shawnigan Lake for now, a judge has ruled.
The B.C. Court of Appeal has temporarily stayed two injunctions that were imposed on site owner Cobble Hill Holdings and operator South Island Resource Management last month.
Those injunctions put an end to the importing of contaminated material at the Stebbings Road soil dump, and established that a landfill was not a permitted use of the site.
But CHH and SIRM filed a joint appeal just days after the Cowichan Valley Regional District’s injunction request was granted.
The stay was approved “to forestall the potential closure, bankruptcy, or foreclosure” of the company, with SIRM saying it could potentially lose up to $8.2-million by being forced to break contracts, Justice Pamela Kirkpatrick wrote in her decision.
“In short, SIRM submits that, unless it can continue to conduct its business, it may be forced into bankruptcy, raising the spectre of an ‘orphan’ contaminated soils site without proper management or regulation,” she said.
But the stay has only been granted for the company to wrap up any existing contracts as of March 21 for the receipt of contaminated soil.
CVRD Director Sonia Furstenau, who has spearheaded the campaign to stop the soil dump from operating above the community’s drinking watershed, said those existing contracts include a “significant” amount of contaminated soil – more than 100,000 tonnes – to be dumped at the site.
“We were hoping for the judge to adhere to the ruling of Justice MacKenzie and to recognize that as a non-permitted use of this land, that there would be no more importing of soil,” she said. “I’ve been motivated to work on this from the beginning because of the 12,000 people who rely on this watershed for drinking water, and I think that in 2016 in Canada, a community should not be having to fight its own government to protect their drinking water.”
SIRM issued a statement after the stay was granted saying it would follow the conditions set by the B.C. Court of Appeal,
The company said it would continue to appeal the B.C. Supreme Court decision "that we believe is wrong in law."
The judge who ordered the injunctions in March declined to order the removal of the contaminated soil currently on the property, citing “the difficulty in enforcing a mandatory injunction.”
That decision only pertained to one aspect of the company’s operation, the contaminated soil dump, but SIRM is continuing to operate a mine and manage contaminated material already on site.
SIRM and CHH have appealed the March decision, and the CVRD has filed a cross-appeal asking for the contaminated soil to be removed.
That appeal will be heard over two days in August.