Environment Minister Suspends Permit for Leaking Landfill in Shawnigan Lake, ‘This is a huge step,’ says regional director leading opposition to site by Andrew Nikiforuk, January 28, 2017, The Tyee
Under intense legal and citizen pressure, Environment Minister Mary Polak has suspended the permit for a controversial Shawnigan Lake contaminated soil landfill site.
The suspension takes effect immediately and continues until Cobble Hill Ltd., the owner of the facility, and South Island Resource Management Ltd., the operator of the facility, meet a variety of conditions.
“This is a huge step,” declared Sonia Furstenau, an elected director of the Cowichan Valley Regional District (CVRD). “Minister Polak has given the company an impossible task.”
The suspension order reverses the minister’s previous reluctance to take much action on the three-year long controversy. …
….Polak suspended the permit for the facility “due to their failure to address both outstanding as well as past non-compliances.”
In the words of one hydrogeologist, “It would be hard to imagine a worse place to locate a contaminated fill site.”
The province also imposed a “Spill Prevention Order” on the company.
The order requires the company to collect and temporarily store all leachate or polluting waste water from the facility so as “to prevent an escape or spill of leachate into the environment.”
Opponents of the facility “are feeling elated,” Furstenau said.
“But when we stop to think about it, the government has deeply betrayed this community.”
“This sort of a facility should never have been approved in a the community’s watershed in the first place,” said the CRVD director. “What happened here was outrageous and so wrong.”
To date, both the Cowichan Valley Regional District and Shawnigan Residents Association have spent more than $2 million to effectively force the province to uphold its own laws.
The battle to protect the watershed included street protests that drew hundreds of people and legal challenges in the courts.
In a statement to the media earlier in the week, the company explained that it had given the ministry a new engineering study on water management.
“Neither the ministry oversight over the last two years nor the new engineering raise any current concern about environmental impact or risk. This means the permit is working.”
[Pure fantasy like Encana, Alberta Environment, Alberta Innovates (previously Research Council), AER and the government blaming bacteria for the pollution caused by Encana’s illegal drinking water aquifer fracing after Investigator Kevin Pilger’s E. coli/gopher shit sampling of the Signer water well?]
But that’s not what the Ministry of Environment found in its suspension order.
In documents supporting the order, the ministry explained that “Failure to maintain compliance has resulted in significant public concern, public health concerns, and potential environmental impacts.”
“Furthermore, incidents [spills of untreated water] in the fall of both 2015 and 2016 have raised questions about the ability of the site to operate in a manner that is protective of the environment and human health.”
The ministry also noted that the facility had “not been adequately responsive (either by timely or complete responses) to the ministry, despite significant efforts on behalf of ministry staff to ensure environmental protection measures are in place and compliance is achieved.”
“The number and variety of enforcement actions demonstrates a history and pattern of non-compliance at the site,” added the ministerial documents ordering the suspension.
In 2013, the province approved the permit that allowed South Island Aggregates, an active quarry, to store up to 100,000 tonnes of contaminated soil over a 50-year period.
Storing and treating contaminated soil can be a big business on the Island. A facility that stores and treats 100,000 tonnes a year can generate revenue as much as $10 million.
But from the beginning, hydrogeologists, local government and citizens raised pointed concerns about dumping toxic waste in a quarry made of fractured limestone in the headwaters of Shawnigan Lake. [Emphasis added]
2017 01 24: Approval for Shawnigan Lake Dump Tainted by ‘False and Misleading’ Information, Judge orders Environmental Appeal Board to hold new hearing on controversial waste site by Andrew Nikiforuk, The Tyee
2017 01 26: Water Below Shawnigan Lake Landfill Exceeded Heavy Metal Guidelines
‘Why is this company being allowed to operate outside its permitting conditions?’ asks regional director by Andrew Nikiforuk, The Tyee
Shawnigan Lake quarry’s permit suspended by province by Lindsay Kines, January 27, 2017, Times Colonist
The B.C. government has suspended a permit that allowed a quarry to receive and store contaminated soil upstream from Shawnigan Lake.
Soil dumping at Shawnigan quarry to resume after court ruling overturned
Environment Minister Mary Polak announced the move late this afternoon, using rarely used powers under the Environmental Management Act.
“Effective immediately, I have suspended the waste discharge permit for Cobble Hill Holdings due to their failure to address both outstanding as well as past non-compliances,” Polak said in a statement.
“I am also signalling my intention to cancel the permit if the Ministry of Environment statutory decision-maker does not receive the required documents, as outlined in my suspension letter to the company, within 15 business days.”
Polak said she has informed the company that it must still meet all monitoring requirements and prevent pollution regardless of the suspension.
“Further to that, I am also issuing a spill prevention order to ensure appropriate measures are taken to reduce the risk of leachate escaping from the facility into the environment.” [A lot too late Ms. Polak]
Polak said the decision was based on advice from technical experts in the ministry.
She first threatened to shut down the site in letters to quarry owner Cobble Hill Holdings Ltd. last fall over its failure to comply with the permit.
The minister gave the company until Dec. 20 to respond, but had made no comment on the issue until now.
The suspension comes on the heels of a court decision this week that halted deliveries to the Stebbings Road property and ordered the Environmental Appeal Board to reconsider the case.
The permit to store soil in the quarry was awarded in 2013, stayed pending an appeal and then upheld by the environmental appeal board in 2015.
But in his 49-page decision released this week, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Robert Sewell found the board’s handling of expert evidence led to an unfair hearing of the case.
He also concluded that the board was misled about the relationship between the quarry’s owners and Active Earth Engineering Ltd., which carried out the site’s technical assessment.
The justice said there was “overwhelming evidence” that Active Earth had “an ownership interest of some sort” in the soil storage facility — information that came to light only after the appeal board rendered its decision.
He also found that Cobble Hill Holdings gave “false and misleading” evidence to the board about the nature of the relationship between Active Earth and Cobble Hill Holdings.
The justice said that if the question before him had been whether to set aside the permit, he would have had no difficulty doing so because the technical assessment was done “by persons who were biased in favour of approving the project.” [Emphasis added]