Shawnigan Lake is still being used as Victoria’s toilet bowl
Since 2012, Shawnigan Lake residents actively fought the provincial government’s approval of a permit to South Island Aggregates to permanently relocate hundreds of thousands of tons of contaminated soil onto the slope of a hill in the headwaters of the Shawnigan Lake drinking watershed. That soil still sits there.
In 2019, after much community pressure, the CVRD elected officials and staff passed the Soil Deposit Bylaw. Something we celebrated.
Unfortunately, the passage of this land use bylaw has provided CVRD elected officials and staff with the power to approve an unlimited number of permits for the relocation of unfathomable amounts of contaminated soil to additional sites in the headwaters of the Shawnigan Lake drinking watershed.
And we, the Shawnigan Lake community members, who thought the passage of the Soil Deposit Bylaw would provide us with a voice in decisions regarding whether contaminated soil would be relocated into our community and drinking watershed have discovered that we remain voiceless as to whether these permits are approved.
How is this possible?
Has the Shawnigan Lake drinking watershed been unofficially designated a ‘Sacrifice Zone’ to Victoria?
A Sacrifice Zone is a geographic area that is permanently degraded by heavy environmental alterations, such as toxic waste dumps, which result in environmental, economic, or social degradation of the geographic area.
Environmental Sacrifice Zones are made legal through the passage of Locally Unwanted Land Use (LULU) bylaws by elected officials and government staff (such as a Soil Deposit Bylaw).
Through the passage of this bylaw the CVRD elected officials and staff are now free to issue unlimited dirty dirt soil relocation permits to any developer who applies.
All the financial gains from these LULU bylaw permits go to the developers and to the government who issues these permits.
All the costs created and resulting from these LULU bylaws permits are paid for by the people living in close proximity. These costs include health hazards, poor aesthetics, reduction in home values, and in Shawnigan Lake, unnecessary risk to present and future drinking water, soil and air quality.
Neighbours and community members who fight these Locally Unwanted Land Use (LULU) bylaw permits are called NIMBYs (Not In My Back Yard) implying that these citizens are petty and selfish for speaking up against the transformation of their community into a geographic sacrifice zone.
The truth, in my opinion, is that NIMBYs are the community’s immune system fighting the diseasing of their ecosystems. NIMBYs are, in fact, the Future Protectors whereas, the elected officials and government staff who generate LULU’s and issue these permits are actually the Future Eaters.