Judicial review of dirty dirt permit next week

The judicial review by the B.C. Supreme Court of the importation of contaminated soil near Shawnigan Lake begins Monday in Victoria.

  • Feb. 12, 2016 12:00 p.m.

Robert Barron Citizen

The judicial review by the B.C. Supreme Court of the importation of contaminated soil near Shawnigan Lake begins Monday in Victoria.

Calvin Cook, president of the Shawnigan Residents Association, which called for the review, said he thinks the association has a “strong case” and has high hopes the court will decide in its favour.

“We filed for the review in May, which was before new documents and evidence came to light,” said Cook, who intends to attend the court proceedings which could take up to two weeks.

“We are questioning the reliability of the science presented to the Environmental Appeal Board in light of this new evidence. We feel that our trust has been violated during this process.”

The SRA filed an application for the review in its efforts to have the court set aside the decision by the EAB in March that dismissed appeals to stop the importation of contaminated soil into the area.

The SRA, Cowichan Valley Regional District and several private citizens were seeking to prevent South Island Aggregates and Cobble Hill Holdings from importing millions of tonnes of the soil to their site on Stebbings Road.

The project was given a permit by the province’s Ministry of Environment.

But documents that came to light in July revealed a complex deal between the companies working to establish the soil facility, which the SRA alleges throws doubt on engineering firm Active Earth’s impartiality in the matter.

The Ministry of Environment relied on information from Active Earth in making the decision on the permit.

The Cowichan Valley Regional District also filed a petition with the B.C. Supreme Court in May asking that district bylaws which do not allow the treatment of contaminated soil and landfill facilities at the site be respected. The court has yet to make its final determination in that case.

Sonia Furstenau, the area director for Shawnigan Lake on the CVRD board, said the community will not be silent on this issue, even if the courts decide the project can continue.

“It’s totally unacceptable to put the area’s drinking water at risk,” she said.

John Alexander, from the Victoria-based law firm Cox Taylor, will be representing the companies in the appeal process.

He said he couldn’t discuss the details of the case as it is going to court on Monday, but indicated that all sides would like to see a decision “as soon as possible.”

“The court has wide discretion as to what remedies should be made in the case,” Alexander said.

“But whatever decisions they make, any party can proceed with further appeals to the Court of Appeal B.C.”

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