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Ministry of Environment approves SIA permit
South Island Aggregates has received the green light from the Ministry of Environment to establish a soil remediation facility within the Shawnigan Lake watershed.
But the Shawnigan Residents Association and the Cowichan Valley Regional District both vow to put a stop to it yet by launching appeals.
A Ministry of Environment press release indicated a statutory decision-maker, kept independent from the political process, approved the permit application.
"The decision-maker looked at the proposed project, including associated environmental concerns and concluded that the proposal adheres to legislation and appropriately manages health and environmental concerns,'' the release states.
SIA is naturally pleased with the decision, allowing treatment and waste soil to be put in a landfill at its Stebbings Road facility.
"The issuance of this permit reflects the rigourous environmental and technical assessment that SIA has undertaken over the past two years, demonstrating that waste can be safely treated and landfilled at this location, within the constraints of an engineered, permitted facility,'' said president Michael Kelly in a statement.
"We appreciate the feedback and comments received during the past year or so of consultation with the public and other stakeholders, and have incorporated this feedback into our final design and monitoring program.''
Upon hearing of the decision, the Shawnigan Residents Association quickly announced it's not done fighting.
"We are deeply troubled by this decision,'' said SRA director Calvin Cook in a media release.
"The short and long term impact on our environment and drinking water has the potential to cripple our community. Clearly the best interests of the people of Shawnigan Lake were not the top priority in this case. We will fight this decision.''
The SRA has retained Robert Anderson and Sean Hern to oppose the permit in front of the Environmental Appeal Board. The CVRD board of directors has also directed an appeal to the board be filed requesting the decision be overturned and a stay in the granting of the permit be issued.
"The Shawnigan Lake Watershed is the source of drinking water for more than 7,000 people,'' said CVRD board chair Rob Hutchins in a news release.
"I am extremely disappointed in this decision by the Ministry of Environment for potentially putting the community and the environment at risk. The CVRD opposes this permit and believes the ministry has not considered the substantial public comment and opinion opposed to the issuance of this permit.''
"What this represents is an inappropriate decision by government on a whole raft of grounds,'' said Bruce Fraser, the Shawnigan Lake electoral area director.
"The province is imposing a decision conveying a benefit to a corporation with a set of risks to a community.
"This has to be corrected politically and not technically.''
Fraser is worried about the affects of climate change in the future and the reduced quality and quantity of water available while also pointing out the island region is a seismically-active area.
"There's no way they can predict the safety of that site through the future seismic activity,'' he said.
Fraser also question the use of the term "soil remediation'' site.
"That makes it sound so benign,'' he said. "We're really talking about a contaminated waste dump.
"All of these things add up to a complete lack of confidence on the part of the community.''
The SRA and CVRD are banking on the appeal process.
"We will be requesting an immediate stay from the Environmental Appeal Board to ensure that no contaminated soil is dumped until this matter is heard and decided,'' noted Hern.
"There's nothing to stop the SIA from forging ahead while the appeal is happening unless the appeal board issues a stay,'' Fraser pointed out.
Kelly says SIA will now be proceeding with construction and intends to be operational in the near future.
"We look forward to ongoing, meaningful dialogue with stakeholders and other interested parties,'' he said.