Judicial review on dirt dumping concludes

After 11 days in court, the judicial review of the controversial soil dump near Shawnigan Lake ended Monday.

  • Mar. 4, 2016 10:00 a.m.

ROBERT BARRON CITIZEN

After 11 days in court, the judicial review of the controversial soil dump near Shawnigan Lake ended Monday.

But both the proponents and opponents of the soil dump on Stebbings Road, owned by South Island Aggregates and Cobble Hill Holdings, are still waiting for the judge’s final decision.

Calvin Cook, president of the Shawnigan Residents Association which instigated the judicial review, said he was heartened by some of the final words of B.C. Supreme Court Justice Robert Sewell after closing arguments were made by both sides.

Cook said Sewell had made a commitment that he would make a decision as soon as possible on the SRA’s application to have work on the site stopped until the court makes a final determination on the judicial review and the future of the project.

“We want to see the importation of contaminated soil stopped immediately so we can put our community’s fears at ease until the court makes a decision, which could take some time,” Cook said.

“We’re hoping the judge will make his ruling on our application for a stay of work at the site within the next three weeks, but there is no timeline for any decision.”

The SRA asked for the judicial review as part of its efforts to have the court set aside the decision by the Environmental Appeal Board in March that dismissed appeals to stop the importation of contaminated soil into the area.

The project was previously 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 information used by the Ministry of Environment in the decision on the permit.

Aurora Faulkner-Killam is a lawyer for the Victoria-based law firm Cox Taylor that represented Cobble Hill Holdings in the judicial review.

She acknowledged that the judge committed to making a decision on the application to stop the project until the judicial review is finalized “in a timely way.”

But she said until a decision is made, the company’s permit will continue to be operated on site in a “diligent and proactive manner” by South Island Resource Management.

Faulkner-Killam said the Ministry of the Environment will also continue to monitor the project to make sure it is operating under the rules of its permit, and ensure the regulations are effectively protecting the environment and health.

She said that, in the meantime, she hopes concerned members of the community will engage the company with comments and questions they want answered through the advisory committee that was established as part of the permit process.

“The SRA has a right to a seat on that committee, and it’s an opportunity for the residents to get involved and engaged with the project, and have their questions answered,” Faulkner-Killam said.