It’s hard to believe what’s going on in Shawnigan Lake.
Doctors, realtors, teachers, home builders, nurses, scientists, young mothers and fathers, grandparents – people from all walks of life are putting their lives aside to give all their energy and effort to one thing: trying to stop the loads of contaminated soil being dumped on a mountain above our lake where the headwaters of our watershed flow.
And while the people gather over and over again there is a resounding silence from the provincial government.
Premier Christy Clark, Minister of Environment Mary Polak, and the Liberal MLAs are putting holiday greetings out on their social media pages, wishing everyone a safe and happy break, urging people to enjoy time with their families.
But there is not even a whisper from this government about what is happening in Shawnigan Lake, where hundreds get up in the freezing dark to stand on a road for hours, desperate for action from the government.
We would rather be home. We would rather be getting ready for Christmas. We would rather be sitting by a warm fire, sharing memories, dreaming about the year ahead, having a rest.
But we can’t.
We can’t because there is far too much uncertainty about what is happening in our watershed. Far too much activity that gives us great concern – water running off the site that bypasses the water treatment system, billowing clouds of cement and fly ash drifting down the mountain and landing in the trees and the creeks, and endless trucks of contaminated soil coming from Port Moody, dumping and dumping and dumping.
We can’t because we are painfully aware of the growing chorus of experts who have been raising the alarm about the risks this contaminated landfill poses to our community watershed.
Below is a compilation of some of the many concerns raised by experts – hydrogeologists, geologists, engineers, water treatment experts, and even the Ministry of Environment’s own statements. Each excerpt is linked to the full report or document.
The presence of groundwater at the northeast corner of the SIA/CHH site has been a serious concern from the outset.
From the March 2013 report from hydrogeologist Dennis Lowen:
This was reinforced in a report by Alan Kohut:
Even the potential presence of groundwater at the site is worrying. Yet the Ministry of Environment defers to Active Earth’s findings on this, despite the many errors identified in their technical assessment.
We ask ourselves over and over why the Ministry would not take an abundance of precaution on this issue?
Water management and water flow at the SIA/CHH site have become growing concerns over the last weeks. As we’ve entered the rainy season, the volume of water flowing off this site has increased enormously.
On Friday November 13th, a new stream emerged from the site, flowing directly onto CVRD property.
This prompted responses from CVRD and Ministry of Environment.
An engineering report commissioned by the CVRD amplified the concern about water management:
Even the Ministry of Environment outlined their concerns:
Associated Engineering submitted their concerns to the Environmental Appeal Board in February 2014:
The adequacy of the water treatment system has been called into question repeatedly by experts. Despite many requests, Ministry of Environment has not produced the “Water Treatment Commissioning Report”.
In February 2014, Associated Engineering raised the following points:
The November 2015 Thurber report raises questions about the operation of the settling pond:
Associated Engineering summarizes its concerns with the water treatment system:
Ministry of Environment even raises the issue:
Given the list of toxins allowed by the MoE Permit, would it not be prudent to ensure that the water treatment system, meant to ensure that these toxins do not enter the stream flowing off the SIA/CHH site, is fully operational before the company dumps contaminated soil into the site?
From Associated Engineering’s 2014 report:
Finally, the water samples that have been done since the breach on November 13th provide little or no comfort to the citizens of Shawnigan Lake.
Madrone Engineering, commissioned by the CVRD, reported the following:
They also noted:
Ministry of Environment tried hard to downplay their results, steadfastly ignoring the fact that they’ve maintained from the very beginning of this process that “all water leaving the site will meet strictest water quality guidelines”.
And so, as the citizens of Shawnigan Lake try desperately to stop the contaminated soil from coming into their watershed, the Premier of BC and the Minister of Environment say nothing, do nothing, take no steps to protect the people they swore to protect when then entered office.
But there is no Merry Christmas in Shawnigan Lake this year, and there are no good nights. Only long dark, early mornings and anxious days filled with worry.