Today in the Legislature I rose, pursuant to Standing Order 35, to call for an emergency debate on the recent failure of the contaminated soil site storm water containment and clarification system at the South Island Aggregates/Cobble Hill Holding/South Island Resource Management operations.
There are two active cases before the BC Supreme Court concerning the process that led to the granting of the permits by the Ministry of Environment. The CVRD is seeking to have its land-use bylaws upheld, as this is not a permitted land use for this location. The Shawnigan Residents Association has filed a Judicial Review of the decision by the Environmental Appeal Board to uphold the permit, and they have brought forward new and very important information that was not considered by the Environmental Appeal Board. Local residents are desperate to protect their water supply, and last week two people were arrested outside of the site.
Below I offer an extract from Hansard where I provide rationale for why I believed that holding such a debate was of urgent public importance. Please note that in a postscript below I reproduce the Speaker’s ruling.
A. Weaver: I rise pursuant to Standing Order 35. As advised in Standing Order 35, I gave the Chair notice, and I have provided a written statement of the matter proposed to the Clerk.
By leave, I move that this House do now adjourn to discuss a matter of urgent public importance — namely, an emergency debate concerning the recent failure of the contaminated soil site stormwater containment and clarification system at the South Island Aggregates — Cobble Hill Holdings — South Island Resource Management operations.
There were, in the past few days, at least two documented breaches of water bypassing the system into the Shawnigan potable water stream network. On November 13, Island Health issued a no-water use advisory “advising residents not to use water taken out of the lake from the south end of Lake Shawnigan, south of Butler Avenue and Verlon Road, due to suspected overflow of water from South Island Aggregates’ site.” This means that residents were being advised “not to use or draw water from the area of the lake for residential or commercial use, including bathing, personal hygiene, drinking and food preparation.”
This morning I visited the area today to witness many scores of residents of Shawnigan Lake standing along the roadside desperately seeking government action. Despite the fact that members opposite think this is a joke, I walked around the facility this morning, and there is water running off that facility today in violation of the permits that they have been granted. Yet we have the side opposite thinking this is somehow a big joke.
Last week a steady stream of trucks brought in high-sulfur soils, further contaminated with hydrocarbons from the metallurgical coal activities that occurred at Pacific Coast Terminals in Port Moody. Five thousand people draw their drinking water from this lake, and 12,000 people live within the region.
There are several court cases before that we will obviously not have time but could explore in debate, and local residents have documented many cases of non-compliance. And as of this morning, the Island Health water advisory remains in place.
As should be clear, the need for this debate is urgent. Trucks are not delivering sediments today but will start again tomorrow. British Columbians are facing very real health impacts from a decision this government has made, and there has not been and will not be an opportunity for this issue to be debated appropriately other than within the scope of Standing Order 35.
Today the government house leader, Honourable M. de Jong spoke against having such an emergency debate by saying:
“I also, in fairness to the member, indicated that I would review his remarks from last day with respect to yesterday’s application for an emergency debate and will only say this: again, by virtue of the rules and precedents that apply around the application of section 35, I don’t believe the required threshold has been met in the submission made to the House, and thereto the application to invoke Standing Order 35 should, in my respectful opinion, be declined.”
The NDP neither supported nor opposed the emergency debate.
The Speaker subsequently ruled against having the debate.