British Columbia

Province pulls controversial Shawnigan Lake soil dumping permit

The B.C. government has cancelled the waste discharge permit that allowed a quarry upstream from Shawnigan Lake to receive and store contaminated soil.

Cobble Hill Holdings Ltd. will no longer be able to discharge waste near Shawnigan Lake

Environment Minister Mary Polak takes questions from reporters after pulling permit from Cobble Hill Holdings. (Richard Zussman/CBC News)

The B.C. government has cancelled the waste discharge permit that allowed a quarry upstream from Shawnigan Lake to receive and store contaminated soil.

Environment Minister Mary Polak says Cobble Hill Holdings Ltd. failed to provide documents proving the company had financial security in the form of an irrevocable letter of credit.

"The company was given 15 business days to provide three required documents and submitted only two prior to the deadline given," said Polak in a statement.

"Cobble Hill Holdings has been provided multiple opportunities to respond to outstanding non-compliances and has repeatedly missed deadlines with respect to its permit requirements."

Operations were already suspended

Shawnigan Lake residents have been concerned the contaminated soil was poisoning their drinking source. The Ministry of the Environment has said that their water testing never showed contamination levels above the legal limit. 

On January 24, a B.C. Supreme Court justice set aside an earlier court ruling that allowed operations to continue at the quarry on Stebbings Road near Shawnigan Lake.

Cowichan Valley NDP MLA BIll Routley tells reporters the province is responsible for ensuring the contaminants are cleared.

Shipments of contaminated soil were stopped at the time after B.C.'s Environmental Appeal Board was ordered to conduct a review. Now that the permit has been pulled, the review will no longer be necessary. 

"This is what our community of Shawnigan has been fighting for years and we have been relentless in this fight and we have been determined. We have deserved this outcome as a community," said Sonia Furstenau, the area director for Shawnigan Lake and the Green Party candidate in Cowichan Valley.

"There is no coming back with new paper work. There is one step that still needs to happen, which is the soil needs to be removed from the site."

Province overseeing site cleanup

Polak says Ministry of Environment staff are now working to determine how cleanup will take place. 

"That will be depending on what staff determines is appropriate for ... the disposition of the material ...," said Polak.

The province is now working to ensure material on the Cobble Hill Holdings property is managed in a way that does not present a risk to human health or the environment. (Megan Thomas/CBC)

There are concerns from the province that Cobble Hill Holdings does not have the financial ability to clear the land of the contaminants. 

Cowichan Valley ​NDP MLA Bill Routley says the province is responsible for ensuring the land is cleared and it should require the company to immediately do it.

"You can't just wait until the pollutants start drifting into the water. It needs to be dealt with," said Routley. 


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