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2 B.C. Liberals berate minister about soil dump at Shawnigan

logo-times-colonistLes Leyne / Victoria Times Colonist
May 25, 2014 07:31 PM

KELOWNA — Two locally-prominent B.C. Liberal members accosted Environment Minister Mary Polak Sunday at the party's convention over the contaminated soil dump planned near Shawnigan Lake.

Former North Saanich riding president Craig Mearns and former Liberal candidate Steve Housser berated her ministry for giving initial approval to the idea of dumping contaminated soil near a lake that supplies drinking water to 7,000 people.

Mearns, a North Saanich councillor who owns a home near the lake, told her that people think the Shawnigan community is a little backwater, but opponents of the idea have raised $250,000 — and most of it is from Liberal supporters.

Many homes near the lake are owned by Greater Victoria residents who are Liberal supporters, but object to what the government initially approved.

"There's no political justification that anyone in their right mind could use to let this happen," said Mearns.

The ministry approval was the subject of Environmental Appeal Board hearings this year and a decision is pending.

Housser, who ran for the party in the Cowichan Valley riding and lost, told the minister he has absolute faith the proposal will be deemed faulty. He said residents have held bottle drives and sock hops to raise $250,000 to fight a permit "that should never have been entertained in the first place."

The earlier approval was "illogical and appalling."

Polak insisted projects are evaluated on their merits and stressed there will be no political interference in the process. There are challenges all over the province in locating unpopular projects and if there is no place for contaminated soils it would soon put a halt to all industrial development.

She said the decision is being handled by professionals in the field, not politicians.

"There was great care in making the decision.... It's important for scientists to evaluate it. I won't substitute my judgment for theirs."

The ministry permit was granted last year to dump five million tonnes of soil over 50 years at the site. Residents' objections forced the matter to the appeal board, which held lengthy hearings this spring.

Mearns said later Polak can talk about other watersheds, but they don't have thousands of people drinking from them. "This is just stupid."

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