"Never Say Never.” This issue has been challenged by the CVRD all the way through BC Provincial Court system to the Supreme Court of Canada. Fortunately, a Provincial Election in a couple of months intervened and the BC Environment Ministry has decided to do the right thing & save the Shawnigan Lake watershed/drinking water for tax paying citizens, by cancelling the Cobble Hill Holdings permit. Yes, miracles do happen… even within the BC Government.
Lindsay Kines / Times Colonist
February 23rd, 2017
Environment Minister Mary Polak has cancelled the permit that allowed a quarry to receive and store contaminated soil upstream from Shawnigan Lake, a source for drinking water in the region.
Polak announced the move in a statement this morning, saying quarry owner Cobble Hill Holdings Ltd. failed to meet the ministry’s demands for more information.
“The company was given 15 business days to provide three required documents and submitted only two prior to the deadline given,” she said. “Specifically, the company failed to provide the Province with adjusted financial security in the form of an irrevocable letter of credit.”
Polak said the company was given numerous opportunities to deal with outstanding issues of non-compliance with the permit and repeatedly missed deadlines for meeting requirements.
“Ministry staff are taking actions to ensure material on the property is managed in a way that does not present a risk to human health or the environment,” she said. “My decision to cancel the waste discharge permit is based on information and advice from staff who are technical experts in their field.”
Sonia Furstenau, a director with the Cowichan Valley Regional District, said people are already gathering at the Shawnigan House coffee shop to pop open champagne and celebrate the decision.
Many residents have been fighting for years to get the permit revoked, fearing that contaminants would leach from the quarry and pollute the lake.
“We, as a community, are overjoyed as this is what we’ve been fighting for for four years,” she said. “We knew from the start that this day would come and we are ecstatic that it’s finally here.”
Furstenau, who helped lead the fight against the quarry, said Polak’s decision is a testament to a community’s ability to fight back.
“This has been about a community coming together and working really effectively toward a goal and to protect its own future,” she said.
Furstenau, who is running for the B.C. Green Party in the upcoming provincial election, said the next step in the battle will be to get the contaminated soil removed from the quarry.
Victoria lawyer John Alexander, who acts for Cobble Hill Holdings, said his clients will need time to review Polak’s decision.
“This comes as a shock to the company, after it worked hard to answer the ministry’s concerns within the time provided,” he said. “The company will need to see, review, and get some advice on the cancellation letter before making any further comments.”
Polak suspended the site’s permit on Jan. 27 using rarely used powers under the Environmental Management Act and citing the company’s failure to deal with non-compliance issues.
The suspension followed a B.C. Supreme Court victory by the Shawnigan Residents Association last month that stayed the permit and ordered the Environmental Appeal Board to take another look at the case. But Polak said her decision to suspend the permit was unrelated to the court case.
“We’ve been developing the case for some time,” she said last month. “It’s connected to the letters that I have sent and the deadlines that we’ve placed on them and the expectations. This is one more step down that path.”