Soil protesters take fight to federal office

The DND is defending its decision to send thousands of tonnes of contaminated soil to Shawnigan Lake.

  • May. 4, 2016 1:00 p.m.

ROBERT BARRON CITIZEN

The Department of National Defence is defending its decision to send thousands of tonnes of contaminated soil to the controversial soil dump on Shawnigan Lake.

The department issued a statement after a peaceful protest at the gates of CFB Esquimalt on April 29 during a visit by Harjit Singh Sajjan, Canada’s defence minister, to the facility.

Defence Construction Canada has a contract with South Island Resource Management, the manager of the soil dump, to truck contaminated soil from the base to the site this summer.

It’s expected that more than 88,000 tonnes of soil will be brought to the soil dump from CFB Esquimalt.

The soil is from the foundations of an electroplating facility on the base that was decommissioned in 2013 and is being remediated in preparation for future use.

“At this time, we are doing our due diligence with respect to the disposal of contaminated material (from our base),” the statement read.

“The DND very carefully explored its options before choosing the disposal facility for this project. The chosen site meets criteria, which allows DND to complete this project at a reasonable cost, while respecting the needs of its contractor.”

Sonia Furstenau, the Cowichan Valley Regional District’s director for Shawnigan Lake who was at the demonstration among approximately 50 other people, said the people of Shawnigan Lake are asking the minister to respect the ruling of the BC Supreme Court against the landfill, and to respect the land-use bylaws of the CVRD, which don’t allow contaminated soil at the site.

Furstenau said she sent a letter to Sajjin’s office outlining the community’s concerns.

She said the courts and the Cowichan Valley Regional District have concluded the site is not zoned for a landfill and the DND should respect that.

Furstenau said it’s likely that the owners of the landfill, South Island Aggregates and Cobble Hill Holdings, will eventually be ordered to remove the soil from the site, sticking Canadian taxpayers with the cost of transporting it twice.

She also said the DND should wait for the conclusions of the judicial review of the landfill project before sending its soil to the site.

“Prime Minister Trudeau has said that the government needs permission from communities for such projects, and this community has never given permission for a landfill of this sort,” Furstenau said.