Companies appeal soil dump court ruling

Operators of a controversial contaminated soil dump in Shawnigan Lake are appealing a decision made last week

  • Mar. 30, 2016 7:00 a.m.

ROBERT BARRON CITIZEN

Operators of a controversial contaminated soil dump in Shawnigan Lake are appealing a decision made last week against the operation by the B.C. Supreme Court.

Two appeals of the decision have been filed, including a joint appeal filed by Cobble Hill Holdings and South Island Aggregates, which own the facility, and another filed by South Island Resource Management, which operates the site.

The appeals are scheduled to go to court on April 6 in Vancouver.

B.C. Supreme Court Justice Brian MacKenzie ruled last week that local bylaws in the Cowichan Valley Regional District prohibit the establishment of a contaminated landfill on Stebbings Road.

The ruling, made after an 11-day hearing in Victoria before Christmas, confirmed the district’s long-standing contention that local bylaws prohibit the facility at the site.

But that decision only applies to one aspect of the operation, the contaminated soil dump, and the companies continue to manage contaminated material already dumped at the location.

The judge declined to order the removal of the contaminated soil currently on the property, citing “the difficulty in enforcing a mandatory injunction.”

South Island Resource Management has issued a statement saying it is currently complying with the court order against further dumping at the site.

“It is important to understand this decision deals with only one aspect of our operation,” the statement said.

“We continue to operate the mine and manage the material already on site.”

Sonia Furstenau, the Cowichan Valley Regional District’s director for Shawnigan Lake, said she’s not surprised the owners of the site filed the appeal to last week’s court ruling.

“It’s always been clear to me that this would be a long and hard fight, but we’re all committed until we finally see the end of the [contaminated soil dump],” she said.

Furstenau said the Shawnigan Residents Association and other concerned residents in the area are also waiting for a final decision by B.C. Supreme Court Justice Robert Sewell on the judicial review of the project.

“We feel there is overwhelming evidence that putting this soil dump at that site was a terrible idea from the start,” Furstenau said.

“There are several issues in that process, including the [alleged inappropriate] relationship between the project’s proponents and the environmental engineers that did the environmental studies at the site.”

Calvin Cook, president of the Shawnigan Residents Association, said if the court rules in the association’s favour in the judicial review, it will likely be hard for the project’s proponents to successfully appeal two court rulings against it.

“But even if we are successful in having the operation shut down, there’s still lots of contaminated soil at the site that will have to be dealt with,” he said.

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