British Columbia

Shawnigan Lake soil dumping protests attract hundreds on Vancouver Island

More than 500 people gathered at Shawnigan Lake on Vancouver Island on Wednesday morning to raise awareness about the effects of dumping allegedly contaminated soil near the community's watershed.

Province says testing shows levels well within government standards

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)

More than 500 people gathered at Shawnigan Lake on Vancouver Island on Wednesday morning to raise awareness about the effects of dumping allegedly contaminated soil near the community's watershed. 

The province has granted a permit to allow the dumping of salt water dredgings from Port Moody into a quarry near the Vancouver Island lake. But thousands of people in the area north of Victoria rely on the watershed for drinking water. 

"We want people to understand this is not an NIMBY issue. This is a contaminated landfill that got approved without going through the government's own process," said Shawnigan Lake regional director Sonia Furstenau. 

On Wednesday, protesters blocked the way for trucks to access the landfill where the soil is dumped. 

"As they continue to roll trucks in, people continue to show up and get in the way and voice their concerns and say no, this is wrong, and we won't allow it anymore," said nearby resident Shelagh Bell-Irving.

Children's singer Raffi added his voice to the chorus of people fighting the provincial government's decision.

The regional district sent helicopters above the site to give local politicians a chance to see the dumping first hand.

The provincial government has been doing testing of the water and shared the results at a public meeting in July. It said the levels of chemicals are within provincial standards, or naturally occurring in the soil.

But Furstenau says the region's own testing shows otherwise.

"Iron, manganese, now we're seeing levels of sodium and sulphurs are steadily increasing in the water coming off the site," she said.

The province is allowing up to 100,000 tonnes of soil per year to be stored above the lake.

With files from Richard Zussman


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