British Columbia

Residents of Shawnigan Lake, B.C., await decision on fate of contaminated soil

It has been a year since the province pulled the permit for a controversial landfill near Shawnigan Lake, B.C., but no decision has been made on the fate of the contaminated dirt that remains at the site.

Ministry of Environment says decision on future of dirt in controversial landfill coming later this year

The Ministry of Environment says the landfill that was allowed to accept contaminated soil for several years is being closely monitored while it makes a decision about the fate of the dirt. (Megan Thomas/CBC)

It has been a year since the province pulled the permit for a controversial landfill near Shawnigan Lake, B.C., but no decision has been made on the fate of the contaminated dirt that remains at the site.

The landfill, located in an old quarry in the hills above the community, received a permit in 2013 to accept and store up to 100,000 tonnes of contaminated soil at the site every year.

Shawnigan Lake is a 45-minute drive from Victoria.

The province pulled the permit in late February 2017 after it said owner Cobble Hill Holdings Ltd. failed to provide documents proving the company had financial security in the form of an irrevocable letter of credit.

The decision to revoke the permit also followed years of protests and several court battles over the facility.

"There is a significant amount of contaminated soil sitting on that site," said Cowichan Valley Green MLA Sonia Furstenau, who also led the community campaign against the landfill before she was elected to the legislature.

"We in the community have remained steadfast in our position that it is an inappropriate location for contaminated soil."

Residents remain concerned that contaminants from the landfill will eventually end up in Shawnigan Lake, the drinking water source for the community.

Hundreds of protesters gathered at Shawnigan Lake Jan. 6, 2016 to voice their opposition to a soil dumping site near their watershed. (Carol Anne Shaw/Twitter)

Site being monitored

The contaminated dirt that was dumped before the permit was pulled is being closely monitored while a decision is made on the future of the site, the Ministry of Environment said.

Officials are still reviewing a proposal by the company to permanently close the landfill in accordance with provincial standards, the ministry said. The details of that plan are not public.

People in the community are anxious to find out if the contaminated soil will be removed, said Shawnigan Lake resident Al Brunet.

"We are in effect in the dark as to what is going to happen up there," he said. "People are anxious to have a decision of some sort."

The Ministry of Environment said a final decision on the fate of the soil will come sometime this year.

Meanwhile, Cobble Hill Holdings Ltd. is also suing the province and former Environment Minister Mary Polak over the cancelled permit.

The suit alleges the province acted unlawfully when it cancelled the permit.

The company claims its lands have become contaminated and its business has been hurt as a result of the government's actions. None of the allegations have been proven in court.