Shawnigan Lake Area director under fire from soil dump owners

The companies that operate the controversial contaminated soil dump on Shawnigan Lake are taking issue with Sonia Furstenau.

The companies that operate the controversial contaminated soil dump on Shawnigan Lake are taking issue with Sonia Furstenau.

Furstenau, the Cowichan Valley Regional District’s director for Shawnigan Lake, is a long-time critic of the operation.

Aurora Faulkner-Killam, a lawyer from the Victoria-based law firm Cox, Taylor, which represents the companies that own the landfill, said a water advisory that was issued by Island Health in November was a “direct response” to a report made on behalf of Furstenau.

Faulkner-Killam said in a statement that the report “fundamentally misstated the conditions on site.”

“Following immediate investigations by the Ministry of Environment, it was determined not to be a high-risk situation, and further investigations by qualified professionals and the ministry have indicated no credible concern exists from the operation of this mine,” she said.

Martin Block, a director with Cobble Hill Holdings, one of the companies that owns the landfill, added that if Furstenau is saying that Shawnigan Lake has been contaminated as a result of the operation of the site based on the report, “she is making an untrue statement.”

Furstenau denied that anyone made a report to Island Health on the spill at the lake on her behalf.

In early November 2015, Island Health issued a precautionary no-use water advisory for the south end of Shawnigan Lake due to a suspected overflow of water from the landfill site after receiving reports that water was leaking into the lake from the site after heavy rains.

But officials from the Ministry of Environment conducted tests and determined after a few days that there was no risk to public health and lifted the advisory.

Furstenau said she has no idea who made the report that led to the health advisory, and at no time did she have any contact with Island Health over the spill.

“I have also not stated that Shawnigan Lake has been contaminated as a result of Cobble Hill Holding’s contaminated soil-landfill facility,” Furstenau said.

“I have, however, raised concerns that according to the Ministry of Environment’s samples of water discharged from the site in November, levels of aluminum, iron and manganese exceeded the province’s drinking water guidelines.”