There are a limited number of sites at which to dump what are considered contaminated soils on Vancouver Island.
This has become a hot-bed issue in the Cowichan Valley. In a meeting that lasted from 6:30 p.m, to 11:15 p.m. on Thursday, July 11, South Island Aggregate outlined its proposal to reclaim contaminated soils in an old quarry on Stebbins Road in Shawnigan Lake and allowed for input from the public.
Ministry of Environment and Minister of Mines, as well as representatives and directors from surrounding municipalities were also present at the meeting.
The meeting left opponents to the proposal feeling informed, but it did not give them enough to change their minds.
“I don’t think people are particularly swayed by the technical arguments,” SIA-proposal opponent Joseph Gollner said on Friday morning. “They were good … but it doesn’t make sense to deliberately set about putting contaminated soil in a watershed under any circumstance. That’s the bottom line that most people went in with, and I think most people left with.
“But at least people have a great deal more information on the actual project, and that was helpful.”
Lake Cowichan Coun. Tim McGonigle attended the meeting.
“There were 400 chairs set up at Kerry Park Arena, it was very well attended and there was a good input from the public on their concerns. The main concern is the aquifer that sits below South Island Aggregates (site),” he told mayor and council at their meeting on July 24.
“The final decision is not in the hands of the regional district, currently regional districts do not have any jurisdiction on the soils being placed in their jurisdiction,” said McGonigle. “Ontario has some legislation that gives regional districts a little more power (allowing them to) become involved in the process with the minister of environment and in their province. We are endorsing that a resolution go forward to have similar legislation so at least on the contaminated soils site it is proposed that the neighbouring municipalities at least get involved in some of the discussion.”
McGonigle adds that the South Island Aggregate site is just one of 11 on Vancouver Island that may contain contaminated soils.
“The only way this one came to light was because soils got dumped on private property,” said McGonigle.
At this point, any contaminated soils that may be in the Town of Lake Cowichan, or in the Cowichan Lake area are shipped to licensed facilities in Campbell River or Duke Point, according to McGonigle.
However, the Province of B.C. website states that “Landfill operators, including most Regional Districts, may not wish to accept soils containing up to special waste levels of contamination at all landfills, and may not want any contaminated soils at some landfills. Anyone wishing to bring contaminated soils to one of these facilities should check first with the appropriate Regional District and/or operator regarding acceptable contamination levels, fees, disposal procedures, applicability of provisions within the Contaminated Sites Regulation (CSR) and/or the Hazardous Waste Regulation (HWR).”
The only locations listed as accepting hazardous waste soils, not contaminated soils, are Quantum Remedial Services at the High West Landfill, and Hazco Environmental Services (at Comox Valley Waste Management Centre, formerly Pidgeon Lake landfill).
“The Cowichan Valley Regional District is going to be debating motions in the coming weeks that could bring greater focus to its efforts to gain a measure of control over the movement and dumping of soils — contaminated and otherwise — in the regional district,” a statement released July 19 states.
That same release states Shawnigan Lake Director Bruce Fraser will introduce a motion August 1 that will deal with the appropriateness of allowing treatment of contaminated soil in a watershed that provides area residents with potable water.
Fraser said this concern covers all watersheds where communities take domestic water supplies but he is giving his immediate attention to the SIA application for a waste discharge permit as part of a reclamation proposal for the Stebbings Road quarry.
With notes from the Cowichan News Leader Pictorial.