By Shawnigan Research Group
In 2017 the Shawnigan Residents Association was successful in their court case, yet the ministry has yet to address the issues regarding a conflict of interest between the Engineers and the Permit holders. Since that time, the Shawnigan Research Group (SRG) has taken on the task of reviewing the reports and meeting with the relevant parties to push for removal of the contaminated soil.
The SRG has met with the Ministry of Environment & Climate Change (MoE) on multiple occasions over the past several years. The SRG has pointed out problems with the contaminated soil landfill including problems with the clay liner, the polyethylene base liner, the polyethylene cover liner and the large volume of elemental sulfur present in the Port Moody soil brought on site. Gary Hamilton, a contaminated sites specialist hired by the SRA, reported during a meeting with MoE that elemental sulfur is so problematical that there is no other landfill site in BC that would accept such soils. The SRG has also presented evidence that the site is leaking. During each meeting MoE staff assured the SRG that the Community concerns will be taken into consideration and that the SRG would be consulted prior to a decision being made.
The Named Parties that the MoE considers responsible for the contaminated soils landfill on Lot #23 are: Cobble Hill Holdings (CHH), South Island Aggregates (SIA), South Island Resource Management (SIRM), Allterra, Martin Block and Michael Kelly. The SRG was greatly surprised to learn that on September 20, 2018, the MoE sent a letter to the Named Parties outlining that provisional approval was given for an updated closure plan prepared by Sperling Hansen Associates (SHA), provided that a number of additional conditions were met. On January 4, 2019, representatives of the SRG met with the MoE and the President of SHA to review the ‘improved’ final closure plan. It is the opinion of the SRG that this improved final closure plan has as many flaws in it as the previous closure plans. When the SRG highlighted the problems present in the plan, the response was that the contaminated soil is sealed in such a way that no additional water can enter and ultimately the soil will be so dry that no leachate will be generated; therefore the environment will be protected. Furthermore, it was disclosed that the MoE did not inform SHA that many tonnes of elemental sulfur are present in the landfill. This is of course material to the closure plan and it was disappointing to learn that the SHA plan did not consider it.
The Final Closure Plan prepared by SHA is now available for review on the MoE website. This Plan will enable the Named Parties to make some money by bringing in an additional 70,000 metric tonnes of industrial grade fill onto the site. This despite the large quantity of fill on the adjacent Lot #21 (right next door). According to a July 16, 2015 Information Sheet prepared by the Ministry of Energy & Mines (MEM), that soil is intended for the reclamation of the quarry on Lot #23, but it will likely not be used in the Final Closure Plan.
At the end of March, the SRG and the Shawnigan Residents Association are meeting with the MoE to discuss the proposed closure plan. We are nearing a major decision by the Ministry and it is prudent that we invite our lawyers to also attend. Please contribute to support our ongoing legal efforts to have the contaminated soil removed. (Add go fund me information for SRA).