It was the first heavy rainfall of the season – the kind of rain that roused us in the night with its persistent pounding on our roofs and windows.
It was the kind of rain that forced us to think of the 200,000 tonnes of contaminated soil sitting high up in our watershed.
For weeks we’ve worried that the water collection system would not be able to deal with heavy rain pouring off the slope of the giant pile of contaminated soil.
Let’s go back to the Environmental Appeal Board’s decision to uphold the permit issued to Cobble Hill Holdings. Here are a few statements from the EAB’s 120-page decision about the “multiple layers of protection” that the highly engineered site would provide:
So how did the “multiple barriers” and “multiple layers of protection” fare in the rain today?
Today’s rain was heavy, but in no way extreme. And certainly not the 1-200 year rain event that this site was supposed to be able to handle, according to the EAB decision:
To their credit, MoE sent out a Conservation Officer to assess what was happening. By the time he arrived, however, the operators had brought in a vacuum truck – so he did not witness the trenches filled with water or the flow of contact water being stemmed with hay bales. (Strange – there was no mention of hay bales or vacuum trucks during the EAB hearings or in the EAB decision.)
The permit was upheld by the EAB in March 2015, and concerns of the citizens of Shawnigan Lake have mounted steadily ever since. Over the last 11 months, MoE has issued nine public letters to CHH. Minister Polak frames this as evidence that the Ministry staff are “doing their job” by “monitoring” the site.
I would argue that the ongoing issues at this site are evidence of what we have said from the very beginning: that this permit should never have been issued. As one expert witness said during the EAB hearings, “this is crazy”.
And almost all of the actual monitoring at the site is done by committed community members who have refused to give up on protecting our watershed.
There is only one acceptable outcome to this story. This permit must be revoked, and the soils that have been landfilled at this site must be removed.