On December 2 I sent a letter to the Minister of Environment. In the letter I expressed my concerns regarding the ongoing activities at the site in the Shawnigan Lake watershed where contaminated soils are being delivered. My letter was initiated in response to the release of two Cowichan Valley Regional District (CVRD) reports.
As noted in the Thurber Engineering Ltd report, “The presence of the large volume of water emerging from under the rock armour at the head of the ephemeral stream indicates that runoff storm water sourced from the SIA site is bypassing the sediment pond (i.e by flowing under it) and is being discharged directly onto the land owned by the CVRD”.
Below I provide photographs of the sediment pond [panel a], as well as a large pond beside the sediment pond [panel b]. The report suggests that much of the water bypasses the sediment pond and leaves via an ephemeral stream [panel c].
I have yet to receive a response to my letter but I note that the Ministry responded directly to the CVRD’s letter sent on the same day as mine. The ministry has also detailed their timeline of compliance and monitoring.
In the Ministry’s response to CVRD they state:
The Honourable Mary Polak
Minister of Environment
December 2nd 2015
Dear Minister Polak,
On December 1st 2015 the Cowichan Valley Regional District released an engineering report, commissioned by the district, evaluating unauthorized water discharge from the contaminated soil treatment site managed by Cobble Hill Holdings Ltd. near Shawnigan Lake. The Thurber Engineering report titled ‘Storm Water Management Observations, South Island Aggregate’ is clear and blunt in its assessment:
“The presence of the large volume of water emerging from under the rock armour at the head of the ephemeral stream indicates that runoff storm water sourced from the SIA site is bypassing the sediment pond (i.e by flowing under it) and is being discharged directly onto the land owned by the CVRD”
The report also concluded the sediment pond meant to hold water runoff from the site is ‘relatively porous’ and therefore completely inadequate as a containment system.
In addition, on November 18th 2015, Jennifer McGuire, Executive Director of the Ministry of Environment Regional Operations Branch, issued a formal warning letter to Cobble Hill Holdings regarding permit PR-105809 raising concerns regarding the ability of the operator to ensure effective operation of the site and to manage unauthorized discharges in accordance with the license.
These are only the most recent developments following months of gathered evidence and serious concerns on water quality raised by the residents and property owners around Shawnigan Lake, the CVRD, Island Health, Cowichan Tribes, myself and others.
In light of this I am asking you use your authority and prerogative as Minister of Environment to:
1: Immediately suspend permit PR-105809 and order the operator to cease operations.
2: Commission an independent engineering firm to evaluate water source, flow and containment, bedrock analysis and operating and emergency procedures to determine if the site can be remediated to comply with the permit.
I am available to discuss this at your convenience and look forward to your immediate attention.
MLA – Oak Bay – Gordon Head