Province takes control of soil lot over taxes

A portion of the controversial contaminated soil dump in Shawnigan Lake is now in the province’s hands

  • Feb. 17, 2016 9:00 a.m.

Robert Barron Citizen

A portion of the controversial contaminated soil dump in Shawnigan Lake is now in the province’s hands after the dump’s owners failed to pay their property taxes.

The property that has reverted to the Crown is adjacent to the quarry site on Stebbings Road where South Island Aggregates and Cobble Hill Holdings are importing millions of tonnes of contaminated soil.

The material that is stored on the property is planned to be used to cap the quarry in the adjacent lot in the future.

A spokesman for the companies told the media that the failure to pay the taxes was a “simple oversight” and the taxes are to be paid immediately.

The owners have up to three years to pay the outstanding taxes and regain title to the property.

Bob Day, the vice-chairperson of the Cowichan Valley Regional District, which has brought the matter of the contaminated soil landfill to a judicial review by the B.C. Supreme Court, said he doesn’t think the company’s tax troubles will likely see the end of the project.

“But that issue is currently in the province’s hands,” he said.

Meanwhile, Mary Polak, B.C.’s Minister of Environment, is proposing a new, independent watershed monitoring program for the quarry and Shawnigan Lake.

Polak met with the board at the CVRD last week to discuss the monitoring of water quality associated with the project.

Day said Polak was just testing the waters to see if the regional district would be willing to work together with her ministry to establish a watershed monitoring program.

He said further details of the proposed program are expected be presented at next week’s meeting of the regional services committee.

Paul Hasselback, the chief medical officer on Vancouver Island, assured the public the project is being extensively monitored to ensure the risk to human health is minimal.

He said “extensive work” has been done on the project’s permit to operate that sees ongoing and frequent monitoring and other checks and balances that is intended to safeguard against any negative health impacts.

“There’s no question that there have been some hiccups on the way, including a flow from the property a few months ago, but nothing serious that could be considered as a health risk,” Hasselback said.

“We take our job as the protectors of the public health very seriously.”