Shawnigan Lake, Vancouver Island: Victory for “people power!” Day before World Water Day, B.C. court rules for community, against contaminated soil facility risking drinking water for thousands. Pamela McCall, CFAX 1070, interviews Sonia Furstgenau in studio.

Pamela McCall interviewed Sonia Furstgenau, Shawnigan Lake Director, in studio on CFAX 1070 radio, March 21, 2016.

Sonia learned of the court ruling about half an hour before going on air.

All of the people’s criticism of the project was based on the government’s own documents and those of the company.

The court also awarded the people costs!


It’s been a year and a day, since the EAB [Environmental Appeal Board] decision. …

We’ve been fighting for our water for a year and a day. 

B.C. court rules against contaminated soil facility on Vancouver Island by Wendy Stueck, March 21, 2016, The Globe and Mail

A contentious contaminated soil disposal facility near Shawnigan Lake on Vancouver Island has been dealt a setback through a court ruling that the operation violates regional bylaws.

In a decision released Monday, B.C. Supreme Court Judge Brian Mackenzie wrote that current operations on the site have created a landfill and that such a use is not permitted under Cowichan Valley Regional District zoning.

Cowichan Valley v. Cobble Hill Holdings

The owner and operator of the site argued they were not operating a landfill but only reclaiming land under a 2006 mining permit for an existing rock quarry nearby.

Judge Mackenzie disagreed, referring to a previous court decision that found regional district regulations did not allow a soil treatment facility as a “permitted use.”

In that earlier case, the judge “had no trouble concluding that to include this type of activity as a permitted use would be ‘stretching the language significantly’” Judge Mackenzie noted in his ruling.

“Given the evidence in the present case and the unambiguous provisions of the bylaw, I agree with that conclusion,”

The controversy around the contaminated soil facility has focused largely on the potential for contaminants to make their way into Shawnigan Lake, which provides drinking water to thousands of people in the watershed.

The province in 2013 approved a permit to the site’s owner to receive and store up to 100,000 tonnes of soil per year at the site, located about five kilometres south of, and uphill from, Shawnigan Lake. The Shawnigan Residents Association and the Cowichan Valley Regional District tried to have the permit overturned but the Environmental Appeal Board upheld it last year.

The decision includes an injunction against contaminated soil being shipped to the site.

“Today is incredible,” Georgia Collins, a Shawnigan Lake resident and president of the Cowichan-Malahat-Langford NDP Electoral District Association.

“What the community’s hope is that [the proponents] will not be a financial position to appeal…we’re all hoping they will let it die,” Ms. Collins added.

In a statement Monday, South Island Resource Management – which operates the contaminated soil disposal facility – said it would comply with the court order. The owner of the property, Cobble Hill Holdings, is believed to considering an appeal, the company said in the same statement.

The Shawnigan Residents Association has also sought a judicial review of the EAB’s decision. A ruling in that case in pending.

While waiting for that court ruling, residents are relieved that the trucks filled with contaminated soil will stop rolling onto the property, Shawnigan Residents Association spokesman Calvin Cook said.

“That’s exactly what we were after – our contention from the beginning was that the statutory decision-maker had made the wrong decision…yet they still decided to proceed, so we feel vindicated in that,” Mr. Cook said.

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