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.