Commitments from the Ministers of Mines and Environment

In the Legislature today, Andrew Weaver asked two questions – one to the Minister of Energy and Mines, and one to the Minister of Environment.  Each made a commitment in response to Andrew`s questions – here are the transcripts:

REMEDIATION OF ACTIONS BY
SOUTH ISLAND AGGREGATES

A. Weaver: I have in my possession two letters sent from the Ministry of Energy and Mines to South Island Aggregates in Shawnigan Lake concerning “sloughing or material that encroached onto Cowichan Valley regional district property.”

The April 1, 2014 letter from the ministry’s regional manager for the coast area states that “the property impacted by the encroachment must be cleaned up and returned to its pre-encroachment state to the satisfaction of the property owner.”

The story continues. I also have a letter from the CVRD clearly outlining the fact that the property impacted has yet to be cleaned up, let alone to the CVRD’s satisfaction. South Island Aggregates needs an amendment to its mines permit before its Ministry of Environment permit can become active.

Will the Minister of Energy and Mines commit to ensuring that before an amended permit is issued, the infractions and issues of non-compliance at this site have been addressed?

[1035]

Hon. B. Bennett: It’s actually refreshing to get a question where the member has a good grasp of the facts.

HSE – 20150430 AM 008/dag/1035

Hon. B. Bennett: It’s actually refreshing to get a question where the member has a good grasp of the facts. I don’t think that this quarry is in the member’s riding so, honestly, he deserves a lot of credit for having done the due diligence that whoever the MLA is for that area hasn’t done.

To the member’s question, he is correct that there was a commitment made by the Ministry of Energy and Mines that we would ensure that the company that had encroached on regional district land would, in fact, remediate that land. An engineering plan has gone to the regional district, about eight weeks ago.

I don’t know why we haven’t heard back from the regional district, but I will commit to work with the member, work with our ministry, work with the regional district and make sure that they know they have that plan. They can take some time to look at that plan, and that RD land will be remediated.

Madame Speaker: The member for Oak Bay–Gordon Head on a supplemental.

A. Weaver: Thank you to the minister for the answer.

For several years soil has been dumped in lot 21 for later use as backfill for the neighbouring quarry in lot 23, which we just discussed, where the amended permit is required. I recently visited the location. I collected and subsequently analyzed water samples and noted that runoff from this site entering Shawnigan Creek had extremely high iron levels that failed drinking water standards locally.

The Cowichan Valley regional district is very concerned about the long-term safety of drinking water in the Shawnigan Lake area. They want to conduct an independent environmental investigation of lots 21 and 23 and are willing to pay the costs of doing so themselves. There will be no expense to the government.

My question to the Minister of Environment is this. Does the CVRD require a contractual agreement with the ministry to allow them to conduct such an investigation? If so, will the ministry consider entering into such an agreement? If not, is it the minister’s understanding that the CVRD have full authority to conduct such an independent environmental investigation on lots 21 and 23?

Hon. M. Polak: Thank you to the member for providing some details ahead of time. That enabled me to pursue and seek some advice with respect to jurisdictional issues around environmental testing.

Here’s what I can tell the member. With respect to lot 21, it is private property. Now, that means for the Ministry of Environment that we have full authority to be able to enter that property, conduct testing, investigate if there are concerns with respect to pollution. We intend to do so. We have done so, and I will talk a little bit more about that in a moment.

There is, however, though, no authority — the minister possesses no authority — to be able to allow another party, even through a contractual arrangement, to engage in that kind of investigation on private land. Here’s what we can do, though. Staff, after meeting with representatives from CVRD have developed a sampling plan for the site. I understand they will be discussing that with CVRD today.

We cannot order the private property owner to allow CVRD members to attend and observe. However, we will be discussing that with them, and we’re hopeful that on a voluntarily basis the landowner will allow us to bring along CVRD representatives to observe the testing. In the absence of that we will certainly make sure that all test results, all test processes are discussed and shared with the CVRD.

Update on the fight to protect the Shawnigan Watershed

save shawnigan water blue dot day

It has been just over four weeks since the Environmental Appeal Board (EAB) announced its decision to uphold South Island Aggregate’s (SIA’s) permit, which would allow the company to dump 5 million tonnes of contaminated soil at its rock quarry in the Shawnigan Lake watershed.

Over the last four weeks, we have become a unified, galvanized, and mobilized community.   Here are a few recent developments.

On Thursday, April 16th, Calvin Cook, Steve Housser, David Robertson, Dr Bill Moulaison, Rod MacIntosh and I met with Minster of Environment Mary Polak. Also in the meeting by phone was Jennifer Mcguire, the Executive Director of Regional Operations for BC Ministry of Environment. The most important outcome of this meeting is the agreement by Ms McGuire to do an environmental assessment of the SIA site, and to coordinate any site visits with CVRD. Minister Polak acknowledged that there has been a significant volume of letters coming in expressing concern and outrage over this decision – your letters are making a difference!

On Saturday, April 18th, MLA for Oak Bay-Gordon Head Andrew Weaver published an article he has written about this issue. Andrew had hiked through the CVRD land adjacent to the SIA site, collected water samples from run-off coming off SIA property into Shawnigan Creek, and took photographs of the debris in the fill that has been dumped onto CVRD property. His excellent article is available here: http://www.andrewweavermla.ca/2015/04/18/shawnigan-watershed/ Please read and share widely on your social networks.

On Sunday, April 19th, the Shawnigan community once again came together to make a clear statement about the importance of a healthy environment. Well over a hundred people gathered at the Kinsol Trestle for a Blue Dot event. It was a beautiful morning for a walk or run, and another wonderful gathering of the Shawnigan community. A huge thanks to Sierra and Alex Acton for organizing this terrific event.

The Shawnigan Residents Association (SRA) volunteers are working tirelessly on a number of fronts. The SRA will be launching a judicial appeal of the EAB’s decision, funded by donations from the community. Please make donations through the SRA website or at the Watershed Office in Shawnigan Village. SRA has also initiated a petition asking the provincial cabinet to rescind the permit – the petition is available online at http://thesra.ca and in a variety of locations in Shawnigan and beyond. A huge thank you to all of the SRA volunteers, who are truly heroic in their efforts to raise the profile of this issue, educate people, and advocate for the protection of drinking water.

Thanks also to Sylvia Gray, whose efforts have resulted in an official file on this matter being opened with the Office of the Ombudsperson. Sylvia has conveyed with force and clarity the many serious concerns that we have with the way in which this process has unfolded.

Momentum continues to build, and the outrage at this decision is moving far beyond Shawnigan’s borders. We must keep up the pressure by continuing to write letters to members of the provincial cabinet, and sending letters to newspapers on Vancouver Island and on the mainland.

Keep up the amazing work, Shawnigan.  Your efforts are helping to ensure that our future does NOT included a contaminated dump in our drinking watershed.

Keeping up the fight + two community meetings this week

Thank you, Shawnigan, for doing an incredible job of getting the message out that our future does NOT include a contaminated soil dump in our watershed.

Please continue to write letters to members of the Provincial Cabinet, and send letters to the local papers. In addition, ensure that you have signed the Shawnigan Residents Association’s petition, available in the Watershed office, in local businesses, and online at thesra.ca

I continue to be amazed and impressed with the incredible efforts made by so many in this community to fight to protect our watershed and our future. Do not give up and do not lose hope – we are fighting for what is right, and it is a justified fight.  soniafurstenau.ca/save-shawnigan-water

Visit the Media page to see how we are getting the message out:  soniafurstenau.ca/media-info/

I will be holding my Area Director’s meeting this Monday, April 13th, at 7:00 pm at the Shawnigan Lake Community Centre. Calvin Cook will be available to provide an update on the terrific efforts of the SRA. All are welcome – bring your questions, ideas, feedback, and suggestions.

On Thursday, April 16th at 7:-00 pm, the Shawnigan Lake Parks Commission has its Annual General Meeting, when the eight members of the Commission are elected. Anyone interested in running for the Commission is encouraged to come out, and all adult residents of Shawnigan Lake are eligible to vote in the election. The Parks Commission is primarily an advisory role to the Board with respect to community parks and trails matters within the Electoral Area (Shawnigan Lake).

Parks Commission involvement includes:

  • Organizing/assisting with volunteer events (i.e. Shawnigan Hills
    Park Mother’s Day Picnic)
  • Participating in /supporting volunteer activities (i.e. community
    trail building, invasive species removal)
  • Providing input/feedback on annual parks budget preparation, parks
    capital projects and parks planning initiatives (i.e. park plans,
  • Providing input/feedback on potential community park acquisitions

See you there!

Shawnigan: an extraordinary place with extraordinary people

I am so amazed and impressed by the Shawnigan community. This Friday marks two weeks since the EAB decision was announced. Over the last two weeks, I have seen the community pull together, pull up its socks, and pull out all the stops to get the message out that Shawnigan’s future does not include a contaminated soil dump.

Shawnigan’s future does include mountain bikers, hikers, runners, and walkers come from all over the world to explore our trail and park network, and to swim in our beautiful lake.

Shawnigan’s future is one in which our thriving local businesses continue to provide goods and services that highlight the amazing talent and resources of our local community, nurtured by the extraordinary service of the owners and staff.

Shawnigan’s future will be full of the ongoing festivals, celebrations, events, and gatherings that we already enjoy every month of the year.

Shawnigan’s future is very bright, and as a community we are defending that future with every letter we write, every name we add to the petition, and every ally we bring on board in our fight to preserve the incredible community that we have.

Do not lose hope – not for one moment. We will win this battle because we are on the side of right, and we are a community that is very determined to ensure that our future is healthy and vibrant.