Many residents in the Shawnigan Lake area want the province to know they want all the contaminated soil that has been dumped near their watershed removed.
Members of the Shawnigan Residents Association and supporters took to the streets on the morning of April 20 and held a Rally for Removal event at the intersection of Stebbings Road and Shawnigan Lake Road.
The protest was held near where Cobble Hill Holdings’s contaminated soil-dumping site was located before its operating permit was revoked last year.
After years of lawsuits and demonstrations over the controversial soil landfill, the axe finally fell on the operation in February, 2017, when its operating permit was pulled by the province.
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Bernie Juurlink, a member of the Shawnigan Research Group, said the group’s research suggests that the soil site is leaking unacceptably and that the base liner for the approximately 100,000 tonnes of soil is inadequate, raising fears in the community that the local drinking water will be contaminated.
“We’re afraid that Environment Ministry might decide to just shut the site off and leave the soil in place,” he said.
Sonia Furstenau, the MLA for Cowichan Valley who has been a strong opponent of the soil site for years, said the main point of the rally is to remind the government that the Shawnigan Lake community never accepted that its watershed was an appropriate location for the contaminated soil from the beginning.
She said Environment Minister George Heyman is expected to soon make a decision on what will happen to the site and the soil that is there.
“We’re encouraging him to make the right decision,” Furstenau said.
“Having the soil removed is the responsible thing for the government to do. This material should never have been put here in the first place and now it’s time for it to go.”
A statement from the ministry said the the foremost concern of the government in this instance is to ensure protection of human health and the environment.
The statement said that although the landfill site is no longer operating, the company is still responsible for maintaining the site and dealing with any remediation necessary.
“The Spill Prevention Order, originally issued in January 2017, remains in effect to lessen the risk of an escape or spill of contaminants from the landfill ,and the ministry continues to monitor this site closely,” the statement said.
“Work on activities to safeguard the site for the winter was conducted last fall, and a final decision on the fate of the soil in the landfill is expected later in 2018. All information regarding the landfill, including sampling data, inspection reports, and warnings/orders are posted publicly on the ministry’s website.”