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Shawnigan Lake, B.C. residents celebrated a victory last week when Victoria City Council unanimously passed a motion supporting the community and requesting that the province revoke Cobble Hill Holdings and South Island Aggregate’s soil dumping permit.
Currently, the company’s permit allows them to dump 100,000 tons of contaminated soil annually, uphill from the town’s watershed.
For months, the small island town has been protesting the project.
“It’s good for morale,” says Sonia Furstenau, Shawnigan Lake Area Director. “We appreciate any and all solidarity. We certainly see a lot of solidarity across the board but it’s very nice for the City of Victoria to make it official that they stand with us.”
Beyond simply requesting a removal of the permit, Victoria City Council also expressed concern over the lack of respect for local government input. Councillors stated in their motion that the provincial government should adhere to a local government’s jurisdiction over land use.
Also taking place in Victoria is the Shawnigan Lake Resident’s Association’s (SRA) judicial review of the Environmental Appeal Board’s initial decision to grant this permit and whether or not it has any merit.
Some compelling evidence brought forward throughout the judicial process involves email correspondence suggesting a deal between Cobble Hill Holdings — which owns the dumping site — and the engineering firm hired to write its technical reports. The deal promised a 50-50 split of the landfill’s profits, calling into question the credibility of the technical reports that were instrumental in the provincial government’s environmental assessment of the project.
“My disappointment with the Ministry of Environment is deepening by the day,” says Furstenau. “I would think that a regulatory agency, hearing all of this evidence that has been presented in court…would respond to that by saying ‘well, we’re not really comfortable with all of this.’ Instead…they’re going to defend the company. I find their actions to be the most troubling.”
The judiciary hearings are currently in their second week, with multiple Shawnigan Lake residents attending to show their solidarity of their community. The SRA hopes the permit will be revoked as a result of the evidence brought forward.
Alyse Kotyk is a Vancouver-based writer and editor with a passion for social justice and storytelling. She studied English Literature and Global Development at Queen’s University and is excited by media that digs deep, asks questions and shares narratives. Alyse was the Editor of Servants Quarters and has written for the Queen’s News Centre, Quietly Media and the Vancouver Observer. She is now rabble’s News Intern.
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