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SIA boss's letter suggests CVRD dirty dirt stance hypocritical

The owner of South Island Aggregates is suggesting the CVRD has a double standard — fighting against his contaminated soil treatment proposal while capping an ash dump at its Peerless Road waste site. - Peter W. Rusland
The owner of South Island Aggregates is suggesting the CVRD has a double standard — fighting against his contaminated soil treatment proposal while capping an ash dump at its Peerless Road waste site.
— image credit: Peter W. Rusland

The man behind Shawnigan Lake's controversial dirty dirt proposal is suggesting Cowichan Valley Regional District officials are essentially hypocrites for fighting his plan while doing a major soil treatment project of their own.

Cowichan Valley Regional District chairman Rob Hutchins has called Marty Block's bluff.

In a letter to Hutchins, Block called the CVRD to question for its project unearthing, then capping 80,000 tonnes of incinerator ash at Ladysmith's Peerless Road Recycling facility. He called for proof the CVRD went through a similar environmental and public consultation process that SIA has had to for its Stebbings Road plan.

"While I agree that this is a safe way to manage this type (of) waste, and, in fact, seems to be exactly what we have proposed in our facility, your efforts to halt our waste discharge application indicate you do not find this type of waste management to be appropriately protective," Block writes.

"Further, you and your advocates have made it clear that you view landfilling contaminated soils as being detrimental to the local community and their watershed."

But for Hutchins, comparing the Peerless and Stebbings sites is like comparing apples to oranges.

"It’s a very different undertaking. It’s not even comparable," Hutchins told the News Leader Pictorial Tuesday.

"The CVRD is not creating a new contaminated site. In fact, we are remediating an old brownfield site and developing a state-of-the-art recycling facility that, when complete, will help keep thousands of tonnes of waste out of the environment every year," he said in a written response to Block.

"Many years ago the CVRD operated a municipal solid waste incinerator at the Peerless Road site. Regrettably, in those days the ash by-product was simply deposited on site."

Hutchins pointed out the inert ash has been left uncontained on site for 35 years.

"Fortunately, its unique characteristics — completely different than contaminated soil — have resulted in no off-site contamination or impact to the drinking water aquifer in the area. However, to ensure the long-term protection of human and environmental health the CVRD intends to properly manage 45,000 cubic metres of ash by removing and recycling metals and containing the ash in a fully engineered cell on the property."

Reached Tuesday, Block acknowledged the differences, saying the motivation behind the letter was more about venting his frustration with the application process in general.

"At this point, I just want to know where it's going. I want a approval or disapproval," he said. "Am I firing back? Is it a bit over top? Absolutely. But what I don’t agree with is the process. (The CVRD has) been taking a hard-line approach on our application."

Meanwhile, provincial health officer Dr. Perry Kendall's review of the Drinking Water Protection Act and the contaminated soil permit, has resulted in him identifying "gaps in the approval process for such facilities."

"I am recommending the Minister of Health raise these concerns with the Minister of Environment and to recommend consideration of a review of the approval processes under the Environmental Management Act," Kendall said.

A final decision on the draft permit for a controversial soil treatment dump in Shawnigan Lake rests with Ministry of Environment official Hubert Bunce. He is still chewing on 300 comments from Cowichanians about proposal for the Stebbings Road treatment quarry.

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