A landslide from a landfill site near Shawnigan Lake has raised fresh fears of contamination to the area’s drinking water, but the province’s Ministry of Environment says there is nothing to be concerned about.
Victoria-based ASI Contracting operates a landfill on Stebbings Road that trucks in gravel from sites across the southern section of the Island.
A large section of a bank of imported soil at the site recently gave way and so much gravel and soil has entered the adjacent Van Horne Creek, a tributary to Shawnigan Lake, that it has altered the course of the creek and pushed it onto the property of Dr. Mackenzie Brooks.
Brooks said that not only does she have concerns regarding the structural integrity of the rest of her seven-acre property that borders the landfill, she also has fears for people that rely on Shawnigan Lake for their drinking water.
While the landfill site is supposed to be uncontaminated, Brooks said the Ministry of the Environment’s soil inspection and sampling program had identified unacceptable quantities of sodium, chromium and other substances at the site in 2013 that were required to be dealt with.
A letter from the ministry to ASI Contracting, dated July 17, 2013, confirms Brooks’s assertions and the fact the ministry required the company to submit a plan as to how it intended to deal with its concerns.
But a ministry spokesman said the MoE has determined there are no environmental or health issues related to the recent landslide.
“I’ve received no information from anyone about this landslide,” Brooks said.
“I only found out about it after some neighbours said they saw a man on my property near the creek. I’m feeling pretty vulnerable. This whole area seems to have become a soil-dumping ground for Victoria. It appears it’s up to the residents to monitor these sites.”
Repeated calls to ACI Contracting from the Citizen were not returned.
Cliff Edwards, a member of a research team set up in the area during the successful fight to shut down the contaminated landfill site near Shawnigan Lake, was also at the site of the spill into Van Horne Creek.
He said part of the problem is that both the province and Ottawa have cut back so far on enforcement of environmental laws that the governments now rely on environmental professionals that are hired by the companies to monitor their sites.
“It’s like hiring the fox to guard the chicken coop,” Edwards said.
“All the water from this creek eventually ends up in Shawnigan Lake and then we’re supposed to drink it.”
But a ministry spokesman said the public has nothing to fear from the landslide.
He said that, as it’s election time in B.C., all government ministries are required to be perceived as impartial so there’s little he can add to the issue until after May’s election.
“All I can say at this time is the ministry has determined there are no environmental or health concerns [related to the landslide],” the spokesman said.
“If there was, the public would be notified.”