B.C. issues warning for Shawnigan Lake soil dump site

Residents of Shawnigan Lake, B.C., are calling on the province to enforce its environmental standards after a contaminated soil dump was given a warning.

Residents worry the site is leaching contaminates into their water supply

A controversial soil dump site has resumed operations on Vancouver Island after the company won a B.C. Supreme Court appeal allowing it to resume partial operations. (Megan Thomas/CBC)

Residents of Shawnigan Lake, B.C., are calling on the province to enforce its environmental standards after a contaminated soil dump was given a warning.

Last week, a Ministry of Environment review found the company, South Island Resource Management, wasn't complying with all the requirements of its permit. 

The Vancouver Island facility has been subject to a lengthy legal battle over its soil remediation site. Residents worry it's leaking contaminants and putting their drinking water at risk. 

"We saw leachate coming down this hill into this water below, which is associated with Shawnigan Creek", said concerned resident Bernie Juurlink, pointing to an area of the facility where contaminated soil is stored before it is moved to containment cells.

This isn't the first warning the province has issued. In November 2015, the ministry said it might suspend the permit if surface water was not properly controlled at the site. 

Bernie Juurlink is one of many Shawnigan Lake residents opposed to the contaminated soil dump site on Vancouver Island. (Megan Thomas/CBC)

No health concerns: ministry

The ministry said although the company has had compliance issues, sampling and inspections have found no concerns for human health or the environment.

However, the ministry said it's taking extra precautions to address safety concerns.

"While ministry staff believe there are no issues with the company's contact water management systems, the ministry has initiated a full review of water management by an independent qualified professional," it said in a written statement. 

South Island Resource Management says issues that prompted the warning only came to light because of its own vigilant testing, and it's working to resolve them.

Protesters stand outside a controversial soil dump site near Shawnigan Lake on Vancouver Island. (Megan Thomas/CBC)

'You need to shut this place down'

But NDP MLA Bill Routely, who represents the Cowichan Valley, said the site is putting people at risk and needs to go.

"I say to the minister today: you need to shut this place down. You need to live up to the regulations and the rules in the permits."

In March, a B.C. Supreme Court judge ruled against the soil dump, saying the contaminated soil treatment facility is not a permitted use for the property.

But the company resumed operations after it was granted a partial stay on its appeal of the ruling so it could 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.

With files from Megan Thomas