Shawnigan Lake contaminated soil dump to resume operations

Trucks full of contaminated dirt will once again be heading to a landfill in Shawnigan Lake following the latest development in a long legal battle over the soil remediation site.

Appeal judge finds ruling that shut down facility leaves company at risk of bankruptcy

The company says there is a liner and a number of redundant safety systems to ensure contaminated soil is properly encapsulated. Decades from now, it says the entire quarry will be filled in, capped and reforested. (Megan Thomas/CBC)

Trucks full of contaminated dirt will once again be heading to a landfill in Shawnigan Lake following the latest development in a long legal battle over the soil remediation site.

The operator has won a partial stay of a ruling that shut the Vancouver Island facility down last month.

The B.C. Supreme Court ruling on March 21 found the controversial soil dump was not a permitted use for the property.

It said South Island Resource Management was using the property as a landfill, which is not allowed under the regional district's zoning bylaws.

The ruling halted shipments of contaminated soil and was hailed as a victory by opponents.

But South Island Resource Management then appealed and asked for a stay of the ruling until that appeal is heard.

Partial stay granted

A decision released Friday granted a partial stay that allows South Island Resource Management to resume operations so it can complete existing contracts to accept contaminated dirt.

The ruling said the permission to resume partial operations "protects against the spectre of an orphan site and illegal dumping of contaminated soils" because the company would otherwise be at risk of bankruptcy or foreclosure.

But for opponents of the facility who are concerned it will contaminate their drinking water, the resumption of operations is a setback.

"To put the stay in place and allow these contracts to be filled is essentially allowing what has been ruled an illegal activity," said Sonia Furstenau, area director for the Cowichan Valley. 

"The amount of soil in those contracts is over 100,000 tonnes."

South Island Resource Management has not said when shipments of contaminated dirt will resume at the site.

An appeal on the matter will be heard in August.

The Shawnigan Residents Association is also challenging the dump's provincial permit in a separate case that is still before the courts.

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