Soil dumping to resume after Shawnigan Lake ruling overturned by judge
A contaminated soil facility is back in business in Shawnigan Lake after the BC Court of Appeal ruled against a local authority trying to prohibit dumping.
The dump owned by Cobble Hill Holdings had been prohibited from accepting new soil deposits after the Supreme Court of BC granted an injunction request made by the Cowichan Valley Regional District last fall.
Thurday’s decision overturned that injunction, with a judge saying the CVRD did not have authority to regulate the contaminated soil deposits being accepted at Cobble Hill’s quarry.
“A court of appeal clarified that the whole operation of mining and reclamation and what kind of soil you use doing that is provincial jurisdiction, not local government jurisdiction,” said John Alexander, a lawyer representing Cobble Hill Holdings.
Alexander said the site, which has been the centre of controversy in the small Vancouver Island community for several years, won’t be back up and running immediately, but the company can now seek out new contracts for soil disposal.
“[The CVRD] doesn’t have the ability to stop this deposit process, and they knew that,” said Alexander. “The evidence in this proceeding was quite clear that provincial authorities had told them that the regional district would not get approval to regulate the degree of contamination in the soils coming in.”
In a statement, CVRD Director Sonia Furstenau said she was “deeply disappointed and saddened” by Thursday’s ruling.
“For four and a half years, our community has been abundantly clear that we do not accept the risk of a contaminated landfill in our watershed,” she said. “It is disheartening that the Court of Appeal has denied the CVRD’s ability to determine land use in our region.”
The Shawnigan Residents Association, a group concerned that the soil dump will contaminate the community’s drinking water, still has an ongoing legal challenge against the environmental permit the government issued to Cobble Hill.
That hearing has already taken place, but a decision has not yet been rendered.
Alexander said the battle has put Cobble Hill in legal limbo for months, but it’s unclear whether the company will try to recoup costs from the CVRD.
“There’s no doubt that the cost of having been effectively shut down for a lengthy period of time means lost revenue,” he said. “The regional district is probably facing some financial impact as a result of their desire to try to regulate mining, and the highest court in the land has said mining’s none of your business, mining is entirely provincial.”
The decision also sets a significant precedent that local government land-use rules don’t apply to mining operations, which fall under provincial jurisdiction, Alexander said.