Mary, we have a problem

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Last week, Ministry of Environment released two water sampling reports from their testing at the SIA/CHH site.  In the Legislature two weeks ago, Minister Polak responded to question from MLA Bill Routley with the following statement:

“Parameters that were analyzed…. I won’t go on at length. We can provide more detail, if the members wish, after question period. There was testing for total suspended solids, pH, metals, chloride, sulphate and hydrocarbons. Those results were compared to the B.C. and Health Canada drinking water guidelines as well as the guidelines for protection of aquatic life. The results, I’m pleased to advise, are within applicable guidelines and do not oppose a risk to aquatic life or human health. The only slightly elevated levels were for parameters that do not affect health or the environment but only affect those things such as taste or laundry staining.”

https://www.leg.bc.ca/content/hansard/40th4th/20151117am-Hansard-v31n6.pdf

But does this tell the whole story?  I argue that it does not.

Eight months into their permit, after the first heavy (but in no way extraordinary) rainfall, water was flowing off the SIA site, completely bypassing its entire water management system.

The sampling results provided by Ministry of Environment tell a story.  Some of the metals – Aluminum was three times higher, Iron was ten times higher than guidelines, and Manganese was 1.6 times higher than Drinking Water Quality guidelines.  Minister Polak suggestion that these are “aesthetic guidelines” do not give comfort to us in Shawnigan, after we’ve been told for years by the Ministry “all water leaving the site will meet all drinking water guidelines”.
But what is more interesting is how does the water coming off the SIA site compare to water in Shawnigan Creek before it has come into contact with the SIA site.  I created a spreadsheet to help understand this question, and it produced some worrying comparisons.

The conductivity of the water in Shawnigan Creek above the site is 28 uS/cm.  The conductivity of the water in the ephemeral creek is 573 uS/cm.  This is nearly 21 times higher.

Hardness of the water in the ephemeral stream is 21 times higher, Chloride 14 times higher, Sulfate 115 times higher.

Sulfur is undetectable in Shawnigan Creek above the site, yet there is 56.1 mg/L of sulfur in the ephemeral stream.

Sodium is 12.5 times higher in the ephemeral stream than it is in Shawnigan Creek.

My question is why is it okay for this site to be introducing pollution into our drinking watershed eight months into a fifty year permit?

Even if the water at this point does not “exceed BC Drinking Water Standards”, is it not a problem that there are elevated levels of metals coming into a creek that feeds our community drinking water?  What happens with the next rainfall?  What happens with the second hundred thousand tonnes? The fifth? The 20th?

What will it take for the Ministry of Environment to make the decision to protect the environment, and protect the drinking water and the people of Shawnigan Lake?

MoE sampling 1MoE sampling 2

Dear Shawnigan

A few nights ago I posted on Facebook about the weariness that we all feel – the weariness that comes from having to fight so hard and so long for something that we should all be able to take for granted.

What I wrote that evening, I will repeat now.

I ask only this: do not relent, do not be worn down by the words or actions of the government or the company, and do not think for one moment that we will not win this battle. We are standing up for our water, our future, our children, our grandchildren, and our community. We are standing up for what most Canadians never have to think twice about – water coming out of our taps that does not have the potential to harm us. We are on the side of what is right and ours is a just cause. Stand together, Shawnigan. Stand strong, and stand for as long as it takes to be heard by those who need to hear us, and who need to listen. I will always be standing with you.

Wednesday night, the company was put on notice by the Ministry of Environment. They were put on notice because “concerns are raised regarding the Permitee’s ability to ensure effective operation of the authorized works or to manage suspected unauthorized discharge in accordance with the Permit.”

Letter can be found here:  http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/epd/regions/vanc_island/env-mgt/pdf/letter-to-chh-re-compliance-issues.pdf

Do not celebrate yet. This is a hopeful and heartening step, but until it is acted upon – until the permit is suspended – this is a letter, like so many letters this company has received since it started operating eight long years ago. And a letter is nothing until it is acted on.

It is still up to us to maintain pressure, to maintain vigilance, and to maintain our determination. We need to keep showing up, and delivering the very clear message: we have never, and will never, accept this risk. We will fight until this risk is removed from our watershed.

If the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Mines won’t hold this company accountable, we will. We will be there every day, watching, learning, documenting what is going on – because it’s OUR water, it’s OUR health, it’s OUR community that we are looking out for, and if this company and this government think for one second that we will idly stand by and let this happen, they are sorely mistaken.

So, Shawnigan – my message remains the same as it was almost exactly eight months ago when the EAB released its misguided ruling: stand up and stand together. And I will always stand with you.

VIHA lifts no-use water advisory for Shawnigan Lake

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

 

Island Health lifts no-water-use advisory for the

south-end of Shawnigan Lake
Island Health is lifting a no-water-use water advisory for the south end of Shawnigan Lake after inspections and Ministry of Environment laboratory tests confirm there is no risk to the public’s health.

 

“This incident may not have put people at risk, but does highlight the importance of protecting both public and private drinking water sources,” said Island Health Medical Health Officer Dr. Paul Hasselback. “For people who draw lake water for private residence drinking purposes, like some residents on Shawnigan Lake, it is important that they have proper treatment processes in place.”

 

Island Health issued the no-water-use advisory on Friday as a precaution due to a suspected non-containment of surface water from the South Island Aggregates site. The advisory applied to the south end of Shawnigan Lake, south of Butler Avenue on the west side of the lake and south of Verlon Road to the east.

 

No-water-use means just that: do not use or draw water for residential or commercial use including bathing/personal hygiene, drinking and food preparation.

 

A second incident of water overflow occurred at the site earlier today. However, inspection of the site confirmed the public’s health continues to be protected. Additional testing is underway to help inform future possible events.

 

Questions from the public can be directed to the Environmental Health Office in Duncan, at 250.737.2010 or by email HPES.Duncan@viha.ca .

Backgrounder 

 

·        On November 13 at 2:30 p.m., Island Health was notified by the Ministry of Environment of non-containment of surface water from the South Island Aggregates site. Water flow from this area travels several kilometres in Shawnigan Creek and enters the south end of Shawnigan Lake.

 

·        After a comprehensive review of the situation and discussion of risk, Island Health’s Medical Health Officers recommended that water in the south section of the lake not be used for drinking water until an investigation was completed.

 

·        At 4:30 p.m., Island Health issued a blanket no-water-use advisory advising residents not to use water taken out of the lake from the south end of Shawnigan Lake – south of Butler Avenue on the west side of the lake, and south of Verlon Road on the east side of the lake. The advisory was issued through mainstream and social media channels. 

 

·        A no-water-use advisory means just that: do not use or draw water for residential or commercial use including bathing/personal hygiene, drinking and food preparation.

 

·        No permitted (licensed) drinking water systems under the Drinking Water Protection Act – which applies to systems serving some commercial establishments and more than two residences – draw water from this area of the lake.

 

·        Residents around Shawnigan Lake have been encouraged to use communal water systems or appropriate water treatment to provide protection.

 

·        It is generally assumed that some private residents who draw water from the lake may not properly treat the water; hence the cautionary advisory to not use the water was issued.

 

·        Over the weekend, officials from Ministry of Environment conducted further site inspections and collected water sampling from:

o   the location of the excursion of surface water off the South Island Aggregates property;

o   the treatment facility discharge; and

o   the creek close to the mouth into the lake.

 

·        As well, visual inspection and photos confirmed limited in-creek to lake sediment movement.

 

·        Final test results received on Tuesday, November 17 show that there was no risk to the public’s health had water been consumed or used.

 

·        Island Health’s Medical Health Officer took additional time on Tuesday to make a decision about the advisory because of new reports of non-containment of surface water at the site due to ongoing precipitation.

 

·        On-site inspections suggest that the flow of water across the site, the modifications for site containment since Friday November 13, volume of water released, and the dilution in high stream flow conditions all maintained protection of the lake.

 

·        Additional tests will be conducted November 17.

 

·        Long-term resolution will require appropriate water containment within the site and would be directed by Ministry of the Environment.

 

Central/North Island media inquiries

Valerie Wilson

Manager, Regional Communications

250.739.6303

valerie.wilson@viha.ca

South Island media inquiries:
Kellie Hudson

Media Relations Manager

250.370.8908

Kellie.Hudson@viha.ca

 

 

Updated Advisory from VIHA

A no-water use advisory in effect: south-end of Shawnigan Lake Area

November 13, 2015

Island Health is advising residents not to use water taken out of the lake from the south end of Lake Shawnigan, south of Butler Avenue and Verlon Road, due to a suspected overflow of water from the South Island Aggregates site.

The Ministry of the Environment is investigating, and water tests will be conducted.

No licensed permitted drinking water systems draw water from this area. Private residents are always recommended to properly treat water from surface sources.

As further information becomes available, this advisory may be updated.

Nov 14th clarification: Island Health is advising not to use or draw water from that area of the lake for residential or commercial use including bathing/personal hygiene, drinking, and food preparation. The area to which the advisory applies is the south end (south of Butler Avenue on the west side of the lake and south of Verlon Road on the east side of the lake).

Central/North Island media inquiries:
Valerie Wilson
Manager, Regional Communications
250.739.6303
Valerie.Wilson@viha.ca

South Island media inquiries:
Kellie Hudson
Media Relations Manager
250.370.8908
Kellie.Hudson@viha.ca

VIHA issues do not use order for South Shawnigan Lake

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, November 13, 2015

A no-water use advisory in effect:

South end of Shawnigan Lake Area
Island Health is advising residents not to use water taken out of the lake from the south end of Lake Shawnigan, south of Butler Avenue and Verlon Road, due to a suspected overflow of water from the South Island Aggregates site.

The Ministry of the Environment is investigating, and water tests will be conducted.

No licensed permitted drinking water systems draw water from this area.  Private residents are always recommended to properly treat water from surface sources.

As further information becomes available, this advisory may be updated.

-30-

 

After-Hour Island Health Media Inquiries: 1-250-716-7750                           

 

Central/North Island media inquiries

Valerie Wilson

Manager, Regional Communications

250.739.6303

Valerie.Wilson@viha.ca

South Island media inquiries:
Kellie Hudson

Media Relations Manager

250.370.8908

Kellie.Hudson@viha.ca

Shawnigan Contaminated Soil Battle – where are we at and what can we do?

There have been a number of developments in the last week around the efforts to put a halt to the dumping of contaminated soil in the Shawnigan Lake Community Drinking Watershed.

The CVRD hearing against SIA got underway in the BC Supreme Court last Monday.  This is a petition by the Cowichan Valley Regional District (CVRD) to enforce their zoning bylaw in relation to a Shawnigan Lake landfill facility and contaminated soil treatment facility.  The CVRD position in this case is that a contaminated soil treatment facility and landfill facility are not permitted uses on this site, which is zoned F1 (Forestry).

The hearing went all week, with a great deal of procedural wrangling.  The lawyer for the CVRD was able to make her submissions to the court, however the expert witness for the CVRD has not yet testified.  The case will continue in the Supreme Court, possibly the week of November 23rd.

At the same time, the Shawnigan Residents Association (SRA) lawyers have submitted their latest application to the Supreme Court, asking for an “interlocutory, or alternatively interim, stay of the March 20, 2015 decision of the Environmental Appeal Board”.  The SRA is proceeding with its Judicial Review of the EAB decision, and asking that the courts issue a stay on the permit during the court process.

All of the SRA legal documents, including the Application and most recent 436-page affidavit, are available on the SRA legal archive webpage:  http://thesra.ca/about-the-sra/water-protection-legal-action/legal-action-archive

It is incredibly frustrating that the provincial government, and Minister Polak in particular, remain steadfast in their support of this permit, despite the clear position of the CVRD that this is not an acceptable land use, and the evidence from the documents submitted by the SRA that “the respondents [SIA] have committed serious misconduct in order to obtain the Permit” and “that what has taken place is a perversion of the process of issuing permits and an abuse of the justice system.”

It is time for us to raise our voices again.

We can use social media – twitter & facebook – but we also need to write more letters.

I recommend that you organize letter-writing evenings with friends and family – come together in kitchens and living rooms all around the community and support each other in this task.

Please write letters to:

  • Times-Colonist (letters@timescolonist.com)
  • Vancouver Sun (sunletters@vancouversun.com)
  • The Globe and Mail (letters@theglobeandmail.com)
  • Shawnigan Focus(editor@shawniganfocus.ca)
  • Cowichan Valley Citizen (news@cowichanvalleycitizen.com)
  • South Cowichan Echo (news@southcowichanecho.com)
  • Island Tides (news@islandtides.com)

Express your views on what is being allowed to happen in our watershed.  Keep your letters short (maximum 300 words) and link your letters to current stories.  (For example, the Federal government is responding to pleas from groups across the country right now.)

Write to Premier Clark (premier@gov.bc.ca) and Minister Polak (env.minister@gov.bc.ca). CC Bill Routley (bill.routley.mla@leg.bc.ca) and Andrew Weaver (andrew.weaver.mla@leg.bc.ca).

Tell them how you feel about the government refusing to consider these two Supreme Court challenges.  Ask what the implications are for permitting processes across BC if the government continues to support a permit that was obtained through misrepresentation. Ask whether it is democratic to ignore an entire community and the local government that represents them.

Write to the new Federal Ministers whose portfolios are relevant to this issue.  Some of the issues you can raise:  Andrew Weaver’s findings that contamination is entering a fish-bearing stream, the refusal by Minister Polak to consider the findings of independent scientists about the risk to health and environment, the health risks posed to the Shawnigan community, the serious allegations raised in the November 6th SRA legal application.

Mail may be sent postage-free to any Member of Parliament at the following address:

Name of Member of Parliament
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario
Canada
K1A 0A6

(We are not the only people appealing to the federal government, since our appeals to the provincial government fall on deaf ears:  http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/british-columbia/activist-group-urges-trudeau-to-block-lng-project-to-protect-bc-salmon/article27171032/)

I share every ounce of frustration that you feel, and I continue to work on all avenues available. Stay strong, Shawnigan.  The two court challenges are moving forward, but we need to continue to demonstrate that we are united in our steadfast opposition to this contaminated landfill in our community drinking watershed.

Getting closer to protecting Mt Baldy forever

On Friday evening, about 80 people came out for a festive evening at Shawnigan Lake School.  There was delightful music, delicious food, and delectable wine.  There were also extraordinary live and silent auction items.  Most importantly, there was a collective desire to see a long-standing dream of the Shawnigan community come true: to protect Mt Baldy as a park. It was a wonderful evening, and by the end over $8700 was raised.

George Norris’ letter, written in 1995 and re-printed in the July 2015 Shawnigan Focus, identifies the value of this mountain to our community:

“This lovely panoramic viewpoint, easily accessible to local
residents has been an outdoors destination, summer and
winter, for over one hundred years. Its recreational value was
acknowledged in our first Official Community Plan twenty
years ago”
letter from george norris 1letter from george norris 2
We are on the cusp of protecting Mt Baldy forever.  You can contribute to this legacy for the Shawnigan community with a 100% tax-receiptable donation to the CVRD.
baldy donation form
Thank you to everyone who came out on Friday evening, to Shawnigan Lake School for providing the venue, to the many donors of live and silent auction items, and to the hard-working volunteers (especially Barane McCartney, Gaileen Flaman, Bruce Stevens, Margaret Symon, and Steve Housser, auctioneer extraordinaire) who pulled together and created an evening of celebration and generosity.
Mt Baldy Sponsor Card
(In addition to those listed above,
thank you also to Island Blue Print, Evedar’s Bistro, and Kathy Waet!)
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Thank you, Shawnigan, for continuing to be a truly inspiring community!