Many Shawnigan Lake residents have fought for years to have this problem solved properly by removing the contaminated soil from their watershed. (Citizen file)

Shawnigan Lake community not backing down from contaminated soil fight

MLA Sonia Furstenau is furious and has spoken out against the provincial government for what she says is them dropping the ball yet again when it comes to protecting the drinking water of the residents of Shawnigan Lake.

The province announced on June 2 its decision to permit 100,000 tonnes of contaminated soil to remain where it sits in a landfill off Stebbings Road in the Shawnigan watershed.

Furstenau is echoing the response from her constituents, the members of the community that the controversial decision affects.

SEE RELATED: Government OKs contaminated soil at Shawnigan to remain

Shawnigan Lake Area director Sierra Action said residents are probably not surprised the decision went against them.

“Things have never really gone our way with this,” Acton said. “I’d be curious to know what would happen in our community if this were an NDP riding. We’re continuously the victim of this bad decision from the previous government and this new government doesn’t want to clean it up.”

“At this point the plan is in place to accept 70,000 tonnes of semi-industrial grade fill to go on top and essentially bury it,” Acton noted. “That means if we ever have removal we have even more of a mess to clean up, you know a few metres from a creek that runs into our lake.”

There are some stipulations that were added to the current plan by the minister but Acton maintains it wasn’t the right decision.

“What’s interesting is that local government is always taking into account the well being of our communities. Every decision is based on that,” she said. “It’s evident that the provincial government doesn’t use that same standard.”

Constituents agree.

“Another government FAIL! What a disgrace,” wrote Erin Bronlee on the Citizen’s website.

“It’s been clear to me for some time that the Ministry of the Environment had no intention whatsoever of coming to any other result,” added Ronna Leigh. “It is also clear that John Horgan only stood with Shawnigan Lake residents AGAINST this contaminated soil dump when it suited his agenda prior to being elected. He has danced around and has been evasive in his responses regarding the dump since, and I for one am disgusted by both the NDP, and the LIBERALS who permitted this dump in our community’s watershed in the first place.”

But the residents don’t look to be backing down from the fight that’s been more than six years in the making, and more than two years since the landfill ceased accepting new deliveries of contaminated soil.

“I guess we need to get back up that mountain and make a noise again!!! This is very disturbing,” wrote Jo-Anne Stuart. “We must protect the lake!”

Catherine Whittome offered a refreshing drink for anyone who’d like one.

“Would anyone like to come to Shawnigan for a nice glass of water? You won’t mind that it comes straight from the lake will you? Because that’s where we get our drinking water. I am disgusted in the federal and provincial government whom approved this in the first place,” she wrote on the Citizen’s Facebook page.

Kelly Bannister was impressed with the community’s response once again.

“This is terrible and irresponsible. Very sad to hear the decision,” Bannister wrote. “Amazing community organizing and action though. That part is inspiring.”

As for some next steps, Acton said she’s sure the community won’t accept the decision.

“But I doubt the community is just going to let this happen,” she said. “I would suspect there’s going to be even more people standing up.”

The Shawnigan Lake Residents Association has been reached for comment and is crafting a response. In the meantime, Luke Holman had an idea:

“Maybe we can all get together and haul a few pickup loads to the legislature lawn every weekend until it’s all gone,” he wrote.



sarah.simpson@cowichanvalleycitizen.com

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