Could there possibly be a silver lining to the dark cloud of the SIA “dirty-dirt” dump that is operating under sanction of the Provincial Government on the hillside above
Shawnigan lake? I do think so? How so?
Well, early in the last decade the Provincial dept. known colloquially as the “Ministry of Environment” gave a license to a firm which both treats and dumps contaminated soils, again colloquially known as “dirty-dirt”, and operating out of the gravel pits on Koksilah Road known historically as Evans Redi Mix.
This license covers many hundreds of thousand of cubic meters of soils that are classified as contaminated, over a fifty year business plan going forward. Sound familiar? Exactly.
The Province has given and institutionalized permission by licence to use this contaminated material as fill at the Evans site…craftily calling it mine remediation of the initial Gravel pit.
This licence, these permits, makes the business, and business plan completely legal…legitimate…not at all like the dozens of other illegitimate “dirty-dirt” dump sites the Province allowed to proliferate across the Cowichan Valley, particularly in south Cowichan over the last few decades….but that’s another sad, and ongoing story.
The “underground”, or “unregulated” sites were a blight and abomination, upon the landscape north of the Malahat…and a stain upon the Provincial record that is never to be washed out.
But are the Provincial licensed sites of SIA and Evans measurably any better? Does a mask of a regulatory regime make them less of a risk than the other unregulated sites?
Most citizens think not, or not that much better.
I coined and institutionalized the colloquialism of “Dirty-Dirt” at the end of the last century, I fought with the Province until a long line of Ministers and bureaucrats got a clouded look on their face like they just found dog poop on their shoe when they saw me coming…most of this battle being well before SIA times, and about the Evans site permits and licences for the most part.
Through out the battle the local citizens who deemed themselves potentially effected directly or in principle by the Evans site licensing process caucused, and asked in a bewildered voice,
“How did the Ministry of Environment become the enemy of the people?”.
All were perplexed, none knew how this had became so….I still don’t, but do have to agree that it appears so, on the evidence, and that the Ministry is quite comfortable, and accepting, being known as “an enemy of the people” by much of the Cowichan citizenry.
Second, some citizens in their wisdom asked, that if the Ministry was so confident in issuing the Evans site license, renewable for fifty years of “dirty-dirt” dumping, then the Province, respectfully, should/could as well give the citizens a written promise to make good on any damage done to the underlying aquifer…repetitively Ministers and assistant deputy Ministers laughed that off…they certainly were not stupid and gullible enough to guarantee and save harmless, in writing what they conversely implied was the safety and wisdom of their permits and licences… to those potentially effected by their decisions…the look on their faces was incredulous that we would even ask. But ask we did…many times.
Sooo…that’s my story, but what’s my point!
Well the risk factors of the Evans site are said to likely be orders of magnitude higher than the SIA site…and the Province knows this, the Evans site hovers above the aquifer headwaters at the confluence of the Koksilah river and Kelvin creek…there is no bedrock debate here…any discharges go straight into the surface waters or ground waters flowing above or below ground towards Cowichan Bay.
And there are already hundreds of thousands of cubic meters of “dirty-dirt” buried on the Evans site…but any truck load that diverts to the SIA site is a silver lining to that dark cloud. That is without prejudice to the SIA battle or debate…just a qualifier, and recognition of previous and on going struggles, risks now embedded…and as so many of the citizens say, with the peoples enemy, on the “dirty-dirt” issues, our own Provincial government.