SIA defends soil dumping plans

The owners of South Island Aggregates say the three-year fight over the dumping of contaminated soil at their Shawnigan site has been as frustrating for them as it has been upsetting for area residents.

This week, the Environmental Appeal Board allowed soil dumping to begin on a limited basis.

The five-week appeal to be heard by the board will begin March 3, reviewing the issuance of SIA’s permit.

The Ministry of Environment granted the permit to store contaminated soil – much of it from Greater Victoria – in SIA’s quarry.

Marty Block and Michael Kelly, partners of South Island Aggregates Inc., said opponents had not considered the science that underpins their project.

Block and Kelly have not commented to the media until now, breaking their silence in an interview this week that included SIA’s consulting engineer David Mitchell.

"We’ve done the science," Block said. "The ministry spent three years considering it … and they’ve given us a permit."

Five ministries reviewed the application prior to it being granted, he said. Still, the Shawnigan Residents Association and the Cowichan Valley Regional District have opposed the venture, saying it threatens the security of the Shawnigan watershed.

"We’re going forward," Block said. "The problem going forward is how do we mend the fences or is it even possible?" The CVRD has said the facility has no place in Shawnigan, Block said. "All they’ve said is, ‘We don’t want it,’ and they’re fear-mongering through the whole community."

CVRD chair Rob Hutchins declined to comment, citing the matter being before the review board and the courts.

Before the limited dumping that has been allowed can proceed, SIA must post security funds, ensure safety mechanisms are in place and prepare the initial soil-deposit cells.

The optics of having Victoria’s dirty dirt dumped in Shawnigan were not good, Block and Kelly admitted, but

they said the SIA project would benefit the south Island by helping to eliminate the illegal dumping of contaminated soils that has occurred.

"We are the solution to cleaning up contaminated sites," Block said.

"This whole region was developed due to historic industrial activity – Shawnigan Lake was founded by forestry," said Mitchell.

The site can only accept material that is non-leachable, such as asphalt.

"The oil and other contaminants are not leaching out of the soil, they’re attached to it, such as how oil is attached to asphalt," Mitchell said.

That soil then goes into encapsulation cells, which are lined with clay and a plastic barrier.

"Our conclusions that this rock is basically impermeable, that water isn’t flowing through it to any significant extent, is supported by there not being a big pond in the quarry," Mitchell said.

"Water isn’t pouring into the [quarry], even though we’re below the water table. There’s lots of measures in place and lots of assurances on just how long this liner will last."

Politics are at play here, too, Kelly and Block said.

"The people who riled up the locals wasn’t us – it was the politicians trying to get re-elected.

"Instead of the politicians talking about facts and figures, they made stuff up as they went along," said Kelly.

The Shawnigan Residents Association hired a hydrogeologist to look at SIA’s

technical data.

"He said on transcript that all he had time to do was look at our website," said Kelly.

"He never set foot on our property and came to major conclusions that our site would never handle this."

The public has an unrealistic idea of what contaminated soil is and the risks it presents, said Block.

"The soil we’re bringing in is so benign," said Block. "These liners and this stuff is completely redundant."

He said the extra measures were taken by SIA "because we’re scared … too about the lake – we want to make sure it’s done right."

Shawnigan Lake School donated $30,000 to the residents’ association without talking to SIA, said Kelly.

"People are spending a lot of money for their kids to get smart there and some of them are going to become engineers … and [school representatives] wouldn’t take the time to talk to us," Kelly said.

Block said he’s not been able to get an appointment with headmaster David Robertson.

"Everyone in the community stands to be affected by this dumping of waste," Robertson said.

"We felt we should get behind the cause and show some leadership, too."

Robertson said he is happy to look at SIA’s data "but I can’t get beyond the basic illogicality of dumping anything that is contaminated up high. The basic laws of gravity … will dictate that things are going to fall downhill."

Just Posted

Robert's column
Robert Barron column: Skyrocketing house prices a tragedy

North Cowichan councillor Rosalie Sawrie brought an interesting perspective to a discussion… Continue reading

Soaker hoses laid down over corn seedlings, soon to be covered with mulch, will see to the watering needs of the bed through any summer drought. (Mary Lowther photo)
Mary Lowther column: Investing in soaker hoses is money well-spent

No-till gardening has a distinct advantage during drought

Karl McPherson, left, and Mary Morrice are the new head coach and general manager, respectively, at the Duncan Dynamics Gymnastics Club. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Manager charts a new course for Duncan Dynamics

More recreational programs to join competitive teams

Cute but fierce! Timber moonlights as an attack kitty. (Sarah Simpson/Citizen)
Sarah Simpson Column: Beware of Mr. Bite, the midnight attacker

Last week, in the middle of the night, I was awoken by… Continue reading

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Flowers and cards are left at a makeshift memorial at a monument outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to honour the 215 children whose remains are believed to have been discovered buried near the city in Kamloops, B.C., on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Pick a Sunday:’ Indigenous leaders ask Catholics to stay home, push for apology

Indigenous leaders are calling on Catholics to stand in solidarity with residential school survivors by not attending church services

“They will never be forgotten, every child matters,” says Sioux Valley Chief Jennifer Bone in a video statement June 1. (Screen grab)
104 ‘potential graves’ detected at site of former residential school in Manitoba

Sioux Valley Dakota Nation working to identify, repatriate students buried near former Brandon residential school

Most Read