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No treats for Shawnigan today; just the same old tricks!

In Question Period, I asked the Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy if he intends to allow a company to import and stockpile soil to sit unused in piles on this site during the winter rains, leeching sediment into the watershed.

Transcript

SOIL DISPOSAL SITE IN SHAWNIGAN LAKE WATERSHED

S. FurstenauWell, no treats for Shawnigan today, just the same old tricks.

In June of this year, the Minister of Environment approved a closure plan for the contaminated landfill site on Stebbings Road in the Shawnigan drinking watershed with a dozen conditions and an October 31 deadline.

Let’s get a sense of where we’re at. Conditions have not been met. Deadlines have not been met. The consultants who made the closure plans sued the landfill owners and put builders’ liens against the property. Property taxes have not been paid, and the possibility of forfeiture to the Crown looms in one short month from now.

There’s another new twist. In their most recent detailed construction plan, the company proposes to first import capping soil to this site, which would be stockpiled until all of the other closure plan activities have been completed. This, of course, overlooks the fact that there are well over 100,000 tonnes of soil sitting a few hundred metres away on the adjacent lot owned by the same people — soil that they were ordered to remove by the Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources and an order that was ignored. What a tangled web.

My question is to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy. Does the minister intend to allow this company to import and stockpile soil to sit unused in piles on this site during the winter rains, leeching sediment into the watershed?

Hon. G. HeymanI believe that the member and I share the same goal, and that’s that the people of Shawnigan Lake continue to have access to clean, safe drinking water — in fact, that all British Columbians have access to that.

This issue has been going on a long time. The issue of reviewing the closure plan by me went on a long time because I continued to check the details, including having ministry staff, who are not directly involved with the decision-making, review the closure plan and including having the work of the proponents’ qualified professional reviewed by an independent qualified professional. As a result of that, I added conditions, significant conditions, to the full extent allowed under the Environmental Management Act to ensure that the closure was done properly and that drinking water would be protected.

As the member knows, we have allowed an extension because the process of reviewing the closure plan over a long period of time to ensure that it would be adequate and adding conditions did not allow the work to be completed this year. But in doing so, we added additional conditions, including new shallow monitoring wells and work to ensure that the site was secure over the winter rains.

That work has begun, I’m informed by ministry staff. No additional soil has been placed on the site, nor will it be until we are assured that it is not containing contaminants.

Mr. Speaker: The House Leader of the Third Party on a supplemental.

S. FurstenauPerhaps we share the same goal, but we have certainly different approaches to how to achieve that. I and the community have been abundantly clear from the very beginning. Leaving contaminated soil halfway up a mountain in a drinking watershed, with groundwater underneath it and surface water circling around it, does not achieve the goal of protecting drinking water for the citizens of Shawnigan Lake.

There is another deadline looming, and I can’t help but think that the pattern will continue. In June, the minister did put out the condition that he just spoke about. Two new shallow groundwater monitoring wells need to be installed at this site. In his letter granting the landfill closure deadline earlier this month, the minister stated that those two wells must be installed on or before 30 days of the receipt of his letter, which puts it right around the middle of November.

These wells are essential for understanding what impacts the landfill has had to the aquifer directly beneath the site. In the deep monitoring wells, levels of sodium and chloride continue to rise, and there has been a steady increase in concentrations of the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon acridine since February of this year.

My question is for the Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy. What will the consequences be for this next missed deadline? And what assurances can the minister give to the residents of Shawnigan Lake that these monitoring wells will be installed?

Hon. G. HeymanI’m very happy to give this assurance to all of the residents of Shawnigan Lake and this House. Our ministry continues to monitor the area, the site and the water and will take whatever action is required to protect drinking water.

With respect to the deadlines to take measures, like the monitoring wells and securing the site before the winter rains, we have every expectation that work will be completed. We will ensure it is completed. We have a range of measures under the Environmental Management Act to ensure it will be completed, and we will ensure it is completed.

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