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Response to BC Supreme Court Ruling on Contaminated Soil Dump at Shawnigan Lake

Media Statement: March 21, 2016
Andrew Weaver responds to BC Supreme Court Ruling on Contaminated Soil Dump at Shawnigan Lake
For Immediate Release

Victoria B.C. – Andrew Weaver, Leader of the B.C. Green Party and MLA for Oak Bay-Gordon Head issued the following statement in response to the BC Supreme Court Ruling that a contaminated landfill is not a permitted land use at South Island Aggregates Quarry:

“I want to recognize the hard work of Shawnigan Lake residents in coming together as a community and standing up for their rights in the face of government inaction. This is a vindication of their concerns, and wouldn’t have been possible without their tireless effort.”

“I look forward to reviewing the ruling and working with local politicians and residents to ensure that we continue to move this issue forward in a way that protects the rights of the Shawnigan Lake community.”

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Media Contact

Mat Wright – Press Secretary Andrew Weaver MLA
1 250 216 3382
mat.wright@leg.bc.ca

Shawnigan Lot 21 Soil Sample Results

Late last week I received the results from the soil samples I collected on Lot 21 during the period that title reverted to the Crown.

Lot 21 Samples - Screen Shot4As I discussed earlier, I collected a total of fives samples from five separate locations on Lot 21 (see image above left for precise locations). Since automated drilling instruments were not allowed under FLNRO policy on Crown Land Use Policy, we used shovels to dig the five samples at depths of 28″, 14″, 15″, 22″ and 0″, respectively,

The soil samples were analysed by Maxxam Analytics for Volatile Organic, Total Hydrocarbon and Elemental Metal analyses. The results are now available. While I recognize that my approach of taking a few samples is a bit like looking for a needle in a hay stack, the good news is that both volatile organic and total hydrocarbon content were below detectable levels in all samples.

Lot 21As indicated in the Residential/Parkland column of the Soil Quality Guidelines of the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment, the only sample that revealed above-recommended values was Sample #3. In this case both Zinc and Copper were over the guidelines.

While my tests are by no means exhaustive and do not address the fundamental question as to what, if anything, is buried deep under the surface in Lot 21, they add to the body of knowledge concerning the area.

Shawnigan Lake: Questions Keep Mounting — the Latest Twist

On the day the judicial review of the process that led to the permitting of a contaminated soil facility in the Shawnigan Lake watershed begins, a new twist has occurred. In what has become the next chapter of the never ending saga, new information now reveals that as of February 5th, the Crown is now the new owner of Lot 21, c/o the surveyor of taxes.

Recall that back in April of last year, when I first wrote about this issue, I highlighted some concerns regarding what could have been buried upstream of the orange runoff that I took water samples of. My concern was amplified when I tested the metal content in the sediments underlying the orange water in July, 2015.

After examining the elemental sediment analysis, I was left with a number of serious concerns. The enriched metal values in the sediments under the runoff suggested that their source came from somewhere upstream and likely within Lot 21 itself. The question I was left with was this:

What, if anything, has been buried on Lot 21 that could produce the Thorium, Lead and other heavy metal enrichment in the sediments?

In subsequent discussions with the Ministry, I asked if they would consider drilling Lot 21 to determine what is buried beneath the surface. Doing so would put an end to speculation circulating in  a prevalence of anecdotal stories. It would also allow the above question to be answered directly.

One of the reasons I was given that the government could not do this was that it was private land. Well now that is no longer the case. So the question is this:.

Will the BC Government drill Lot 21 to determine what, if anything, has been buried there?

The government has now simply run out of excuses for not doing so.


Media Release


Media Statement February 15, 2016
No excuses left: Lot 21 title change means Government must investigate Shawnigan site
For immediate release

Victoria B.C. – The recent news that the title for Lot 21 near Shawnigan Lake, next to the disputed contaminated soil dump site, has reverted from 0782484 BC Ltd. to the Crown means that the government no longer has any excuses to prevent it from thoroughly investigating the property.

Andrew Weaver, MLA for Oak Bay Gordon Head and Leader of the B.C. Green Party, is calling on the Ministry of Environment to drill to bedrock to determine what, if anything, has been buried on Lot 21 that could produce previously observed heavy metal enrichment in the sediments below runoff from this site?

The government has previously argued that drilling was not possible as the site was private property. Now that Lot 21 has returned to the Crown, Andrew Weaver is calling for drilling to ensure residents, local and provincial governments and First Nations know what is buried in the site. Doing so would put an end to speculation circulating in a prevalence of anecdotal stories. It would also allow the above question to be answered directly.

“The fact that Lot 21 has reverted to Her Majesty the Queen in Right of the Province of British Columbia c/o Surveyor of Taxes means that the government now has no legal or legislative obstacle to thoroughly investigate what may be buried on that property. They own it. There is no excuse, the government should begin inspection drilling immediately.” says Andrew Weaver.

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Media Contact

Mat Wright
Press Secretary – Andrew Weaver MLA
Cell: 250 216 3382
Mat.wright@leg.bc.ca
Twitter: @MatVic

Parliament Buildings
Room 027C
Victoria BC V8V 1X4

Ministry abdicates its responsibility to Shawnigan Lake residents

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].

a) DSC07017   b) DSC07014

c) DSC07080

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 [Thurber] report recommends additional review of water management infrastructure and procedures and your letter has requested a more detailed assessment. As mentioned above, this will be done and the Ministry will forward the Thurber report to the permittee and their qualified professional(s) for consideration in that review.”
In my view this underscores yet another example of the Ministry abdicating its responsibility to protect the residents around Shawnigan Lake and enforce its own compliance regulations. We have a  serious situation where contaminated soils are being delivered to the site on an ongoing basis. Yet at the same time very troubling questions have been raised by an independent engineering firm about the functioning of the water containment system. In my view the only logical course of action for the Ministry is as outlined in my letter. I am beyond astounded that the Ministry would allow contaminated soils to be delivered while the ‘permittee and their qualified professional(s)’ review the situation. Read on.

The Letter


The Honourable Mary Polak
Minister of Environment
Room 112
Parliament Buildings
Victoria B.C.

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.

Sincerely

Andrew Weaver
MLA – Oak Bay – Gordon Head

 

 

Operations should immediately cease at Shawnigan soil treatment site

Media Statement December 1, 2015
Operations should immediately cease at Shawnigan soil treatment site – Andrew Weaver MLA
For Immediate Release

Andrew Weaver, MLA for Oak Bay Gordon Head and Deputy Leader of the BC Green Party is calling on Island Health and the Ministry of Environment to immediately shut down operations at the contaminated soil processing facility near Shawnigan Lake, in response to a CVRD report released today.

“The release of the engineering report raises very serious concerns regarding the safety of the ongoing operations.” said Andrew Weaver. “There has been a profound and pervasive dereliction of duty within the Ministries of Environment and Energy and Mines. The citizens of the region have collectively lost confidence in the ability of the BC Liberals to look out for their safety.”

The report, commissioned by the Cowichan Valley Regional District, identifies serious concerns about surface runoff and throughflow potentially becoming contaminated but not adequately being contained or treated. In particular, it concluded 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.” This occurred despite the fact the BC Government mandates that all surface water is required to be “contained on the property and treated in accordance with the permit”.

The report cites a lack of clarity regarding provisions related to the infiltration of surface water and suggests that “stormwater from a facility that handles contaminated soil should be managed in a way that allows for contaminant sampling and controlled discharge.”

“How the BC Liberals issued an operating permit in light of the very serious findings of the CVRD report is beyond me.” said Andrew Weaver. “The permit should be immediately rescinded, operations ceased, and a full independent investigation initiated.”

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Engineering report commissioned by CVRD (Linked here)

Media Contact

Mat Wright
Press Secretary – Andrew Weaver MLA
Cell: 250 216 3382
Mat.wright@leg.bc.ca
Twitter: @MatVic

Parliament Buildings
Room 027C
Victoria BC V8V 1X4