Province, residents keep eye on soil dump as storms hit


A quarry that stores contaminated soil uphill from Shawnigan Lake will remain under government and community scrutiny as autumn storms batter southern Vancouver Island in the coming days.

The Ministry of Environment said it will post regular updates on its website “due to heightened awareness at this time,” while local residents continue to patrol the site’s boundaries, watching for further spills.

The ministry issued a pollution prevention order against the landfill’s owners on Wednesday following a breach Saturday of up to 6,000 gallons of “untreated contact water.”

The order stated that heavy rains eroded sand on top of the landfill at the Stebbings Road quarry. The sand clogged containment ditches and caused untreated runoff to spill onto the property, flow into the settling pond and eventually discharge into the environment, the ministry said.

The order stated there was reason to believe the site was operating “in a manner that is likely to release untreated contact water from the property into the environment and cause pollution.”

The property’s owners, Cobble Hill Holdings Ltd., had until midnight Wednesday to put an impermeable cover over the landfill, maintain or dig ditches to catch any water coming in contact with the contaminated soil, and put backup systems in place to store water or transport it to another facility.

The ministry said its staff inspected the quarry on Thursday and concluded that the site owners had met the deadline.

“Infrastructure at the site, including the cover over the landfill, appeared to be in good condition,” the ministry said in a statement. “There was no active discharge occurring from the settling pond, so no samples were collected.

“Ministry staff will continue to monitor the situation and, if necessary, will take further action.”

Shawnigan residents took little comfort from the government update.

Sonia Furstenau, area director with the Cowichan Valley Regional District, said it will be interesting to see whether the company’s hurried repairs will withstand turbulent weather.

“Ultimately, this is not a highly engineered site,” she said. “It’s ongoing damage control, and that’s a totally unacceptable situation for our community watershed.

“When the first normal rain event of the season results in a massive breach of contact water, things are not fine.”

The company declined to comment on Thursday.

© Copyright Times Colonist

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