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Appealing for Emergency Debate on Contaminated Soils in Shawnigan Watershed

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.

2015-11-16 11.36.07There 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.

Text of my Rationale

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.

2015-11-16 11.24.20By 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.”

2015-11-16 10.12.38This 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.

2015-11-16 11.21.14There 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.


  1. Claire Sandford-
    November 17, 2015 at 8:05 am

    Attempted murder charges should be served on BC Government for inviting pollutants in Shawnigan Lake.

  2. Sylvia Gray-
    November 17, 2015 at 7:19 am

    Sonia Furstenau cuts right to the heart of the matter!

    “We are standing up for what most Canadians never have to think twice about – water coming out of our taps that does not have the potential to harm us”!

    That is obviously something those that we have given the task of governing us with honour don’t seem to comprehend!?
    Their ignorance is profoundly terrifying!

    Thank you doesn’t seem to express our feelings sufficiently. Bless you for you standing up for that right with us!

  3. Georgia Clement-
    November 16, 2015 at 10:21 pm

    This is a travesty…this Dr, is cut off in mid sentence by the ‘ Honorable Speaker’ who is nothing more than a high paid moron. It is time that the people took back this province and demanded gov’t STOP allowing the right to contaminate it in the name of PROFIT…… ENOUGH !

  4. Robert Arndt-
    November 16, 2015 at 10:18 pm

    This watershed also has septic fields that leach into it. Gas station on it for boats. Lawns that have fertilizers and other containments. Why this when the sooke lake watershed is only 3 km away from us. There’s also a easement of the trail that goes right to the watershed. I have no sympathy or desire to support the claims of posters saying save our watershed. It should be saying save our environment of our community.

    • Roger C-
      November 17, 2015 at 3:41 am

      If the population of Shawnigan Lake is 8000 (Wikipedia), then that’s 625 tons of toxic soil being brought in for each resident. I doubt any pollution from living in the area (fertilizer, gasoline, phosphates to prescription drug metabolites in septic fields, etc) would add up to 625 tons! Not only that, the wide distribution of that pollution means that natural processes can ameliorate their effects. So that’s just a red herring. But 5 million tonnes of contaminated soil in one area means any accident would have long-lasting and within people’s lifetimes a seemingly irreversible effect.

      • Donald Gillmore-
        November 17, 2015 at 2:30 pm

        He has a point. All pollution should be addressed, not just this source. I am with the protesters but also would like to see motorboats banished from the lake and no smoke in the air. In fact, the air should be sacrosanct, as it’s pretty hard to issue a “stop breathe” advisory.

    • jodi-
      November 22, 2015 at 6:53 pm

      Why would you have no sympathy as if everyone deserves this? Those are all valid issues you raise and need of course to be dealt with. But to go so far as to place blame on residents who didn’t create those issues, or those that don’t have lakefront properties is just absurd. The signs say save our water..right now that means fighting Goliath…perhaps in the near future it will mean saving it from all contaminants. I don’t see how we can take on every issue on every level at the same time. Who would ever expect that? And it certainly shouldn’t mean don’t fight it at all and just let anyone and everyone pollute the water even further!

  5. Wendy Marshall-
    November 16, 2015 at 10:02 pm

    Andrew Weaver, your work and truthful vigilance are so appreciated and may your efforts pave the way for citizens and the environment to be be newly respected and honoured. Thank you, Andrew

  6. Sharon-
    November 16, 2015 at 9:21 pm

    Thank you for once again raising this issue. It is unfathomable to me that this project ever came to fruition. And now we see that the dire predictions that were not taken seriously are occurring. Shameful!

  7. Alix-
    November 16, 2015 at 9:20 pm

    Thank you for speaking on behalf of our Shawnigan Lake Community. I am searching for an answer from VIHA, who I spoke with this afternoon. Apparently the water test results taken Friday were to be on “the news” or “the radio” this evening. I haven’t heard anything yet.

    Where can we find answers? What is the best thing we can do to Immediately stop SIA? What can I do as a lakefront property owner that will have the largest impact in stopping SIA?

    Thank you again,


  8. Debbie Hunt-
    November 16, 2015 at 9:03 pm

    What has happened to government caring about public safety? By allowing this dumping of contaminated soils in a watershed area you are opening a liability case that shouldn’t have happened in the first place Does someone have to die before action is taken? Why is anybody surprised that after the heavy rains finally come that the runoffs find it contaminating our lake we love so much.

  9. Donnie Larocque-
    November 16, 2015 at 8:41 pm

    Thank you for your time and effort. It is good to know there are people who care about small communities in the Legislature fighting on our behalf.

  10. Carmen Boudreau-
    November 16, 2015 at 8:39 pm

    Thank you! We greatly appreciate your work.

  11. Alice Young-
    November 16, 2015 at 7:36 pm

    Thanks for speaking out on behalf of our community.

  12. Deana fields-
    November 16, 2015 at 7:28 pm

    How can it be legal to have contaminants in a watershed? If (a big if) the water has not been impacted to where we will be sick from drinking it, there is such a big price to pay for us the residents. But so much money to be made by those who don’t care about me, my family, or my community.

  13. Bill Davidson-
    November 16, 2015 at 6:29 pm

    Thanks, Andrew. Thanks very much.