Shawnigan awaiting province’s appeal ruling on contaminated soil

Shawnigan Lake residents eager for the outcome of an appeal made to stop the trucking of contaminated soil into the watershed continue to wait as 2015 dawns. There has been no indication of when a resolution to the long-running dispute between a large part of the community and South Island Aggregates can be expected.

"I’m certainly on tenterhooks," said Cowichan Valley Regional District Shawnigan Lake area director Sonia Furstenau. South Island Aggregates was granted a permit by the provincial Environment Ministry to accept thousands of tones of contaminated soil in a gravel pit on its site in the Shawnigan Lake watershed.

The Cowichan Valley Regional District, along with the Shawnigan Residents Association launched an appeal of the permit, and Appeal Board hearings began last spring. The hearings themselves dragged on far longer than anticipated, said Furstenau, taking longer than any hearings in the Appeal Board’s history. She attended the sessions.

"It was a large collection of experts who testified," she said. "It was distressing to hear all of the experts and their opinions on it in terms of the fact that none of them thought that the plan was viable."

The regional district and local residents say that accepting contaminated soil at the South Island Aggregates’ site poses too much of a risk of harmful chemicals entering and destroying the Shawnigan watershed.

After the hearings finally concluded in July, the wait began. Furstenau said there had been speculation that the community would hear something by October or November of 2014, but that didn’t happen. It has now been the longest wait for a decision in the board’s history, said Furstenau. South Island Aggregates was allowed to truck in some material while the appeal is in process, but now everything is at a standstill. The long wait continues.