Rally in Victoria to protest dirty dirt

The Shawnigan Residents Association is taking the next step in their battle to stop the importation of contaminated soil into the Shawnigan Lake watershed with a rally planned at the Legislature in Victoria next Wednesday before they present a petition to the provincial government.

The rally starts at 11 a.m. and goes until 1 p.m. on the legislature grounds, then representatives will head inside to hand over the petition, which has been signed by thousands of people, according to Shawnigan Lake Area Director Sonia Furstenau.

She’ll be part of the rally. "There’s a lot of avenues that we’re pursuing in this fight and one of the important avenues is to demonstrate that the community’s opposition to this is very profound," Furstenau said.

Cobble Hill Holdings was given a Ministry of Environment permit in 2013 to import millions of tonnes of contaminated soil to gradually fill a quarry they are mining on a Stebbings Road property. The site is within the Shawnigan Lake watershed and sits above the lake, with feeder waterways nearby.

That permit was appealed by the CVRD, the Shawnigan Residents Association, John and Lois Hayes and Richard O. Sanders, who are worried that the soil could leach chemicals into the Shawnigan Lake watershed, which provides drinking water, recreation and economic opportunities to the area.

The appeal was denied in March and the company has proceeded with their plan to import contaminated soil.

The provincial Ministry of Mines recently ordered the company to stop work on part of the site where fill has been piled over the last eight years, and to turn over some records, Furstenau said.

This does not affect the part of the site that is planned to take in contaminated soil going forward.

Furstenau said while she is happy to see the ministry take some action, it does little to rebuild the community’s trust, which has been seriously eroded.

"Regardless of the number of people who are able to take the time out of their day on Wednesday, there have been thousands and thousands of signatures collected and hundreds and hundreds of letters written to the government on this," she said. "The community is so completely united on this."