On The Left Side

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Polak–Shawnigan Dirty Dirt Permit Can’t Be Pulled Without Evidence Of Ecological Harm

Here is another Peter Rusland article originally published in the South Cowichan Echo.
Apparently the Environment Minister rejects the long standing  guidline contained  in the ‘Precautionary Principle’ approach


Peter Rusland

Peter Rusland

A legal, toxic soil-treatment permit for a quarry facility near Shawnigan Lake can’t be pulled by B.C.’s environment ministry without evidence of ecological harm, the minister says.

Mary Polak made the statement while headed into a private meeting Feb. 12 with Cowichan Valley Regional District directors and staff.
“I don’t have the authority to do that (permit pull) without evidence,” she told The Echo.
That huddle heard Polak and her staff pitch a one-year environmental-monitoring program — by an independent, qualified professional — of water leaving private Lots 23 and 21 containing hazardous material.
Environment Minister Mary Polak- Peter Rusland photo

Environment Minister Mary Polak-
Peter Rusland photo

Monitoring parties would include the ministries of environment and mines, the CVRD, Shawnigan Residents’ Association, federal Fisheries and/or Environment Canada, Malahat First Nation, Cowichan Tribes, Cobble Hill Holdings Ltd., and perhaps others.

Polak dodged the press and citizens. She and her staff later left the CVRD building via its back door.
But because it was Polak’s requested meeting, not a CVRD one, directors were allowed to talk about what was said behind those closed doors, CAO Brian Carruthers explained.
CVRD CAO Brian Carruthers

CVRD CAO Brian Carruthers

Polak was grilled by various CVRD directors, some opposing the legal 50-year dumping permit granted in 2013 to pit owners South Island Aggregates and Cobble Hill Holdings, Director Sharon Jackson said.

That permit allows five-million tonnes of dirty dirt, from various B.C. sites, to be dumped into its massive quarry off Stebbings Road, then examined by the company and Victoria for toxic content and run-off.
Duncan Councillor and CVRD Alternate Director Sharon Jackson

Duncan Councillor and CVRD Alternate Director Sharon Jackson

However, Polak claimed she couldn’t stop the dumping during her monitoring plan proposed to the CVRD, Jackson said.

“I asked her ‘If, after the first month, you discover (toxic material such as) arsenic or heavy metals leaking from the pit, will you pull the permit?’ She said, ‘Yes, absolutely.’”
NDP leader John Horgan recently demanded in the House that Polak pull the permit now.
“Why allow tonnes of contaminated soil to be dumped before (Polak) knows what the consequences will be?” Horgan stormed.
BC NDP leader John Horgan

BC NDP leader John Horgan

Polak was also told by CVRD directors that Cowichanians don’t want the pit, or the permit. Their opposition appeared a 15,000-name petition handed to Polak in the legislature last year.

“She indicated she wouldn’t pull the permit, to show it’s not a political decision,” explained Jackson, noting the CVRD board has not decided about Polak’s proposal.
Jackson noted Ladysmith Director Aaron Stone insisted the ministry pay for the monitoring plan.

“Because her ministry issued the permit, we shouldn’t have to bear the costs of her decision,” Jackson said.

Ladysmith Mayor Aaron Stone

Ladysmith Mayor Aaron Stone

She was peeved Polak’s ministry will not recognize professional data about alleged toxic run-off, already gathered from the pit.
“She refuses to accept the evidence to date, and says ‘So there’s no political interference, let’s get an independent professional to prove something’s being done’ — while the trucks are rolling.”
A stay on dumping is also being sought in Victoria’s B.C. Supreme Court where Shawnigan Residents’ Association lawyers are seeking a judicial review of SIA-CHH’s permit, approved by ministry bureaucrat Hubert Bunce.
Bill Routley NDP MLA

Bill Routley NDP MLA

Bunce basically chose SIA-CHH’s hyrdogeology science over SRA’s science. He also received some 300 opposition letters from residents.

“The statutory decision maker didn’t even go to the site,” Cowichan MLA Bill Routley told Polak in the legislature, miffed folks are raising money to fight their own government.
“There is an appropriate process we will follow,” Polak told Routley and Horgan.
SRA President Calvin Cook

SRA President Calvin Cook

The permit was upheld during 2014 Environmental Appeal Board hearings.

The legal triangle includes the CVRD awaiting the high-court’s ruling about if Victoria ignored CVRD zoning bylaws banning soil treatment in the forestry-zoned quarry.
Shawnigan Residents Association (SRA) president Calvin Cook confirmed Polak has not met with his members, nor answered letters about pit-pollution worries from the SRA, Cowichan Tribes and Malahat First Nation.
“We’re paying for our lawyers ($700,000 so far), and the government’s lawyers are arguing against us, in favour of a private corporation.”
Malahat Nation Chief Michael Harry-Resigned

Malahat Nation Chief Michael Harry-Resigned

He saw Polak’s monitoring plan as greenwash.

“She wants to be able to say she’s been in consultation with stakeholders, and we vehemently disagree.
“Just put a stay in place to prevent further contaminants coming in (to the pit) until the judicial review’s done, and we receive a ruling from Justice Sewell.”
Lawyers with the ministry, SRA and SIA were in court between Feb. 15 and 29 debating that requested judicial review.
Judge Robert J. Sewell has received documents alleging private deals between SIA’s engineering firm Active Earth, and with the Malahat band’s former chief Michael Harry, who resigned. Those documents weren’t handed to the EAB.
“Evidence was withheld from the public,” Routley fumed to Polak.
SRA lawyers cited case law showing that new evidence should be admitted by Sewell on grounds those documents may indicate fraud, ending with the permit being granted, Cook explained.
“Justice Sewell can send the evidence back to the EAB to have it consider that new evidence, let the permit stand, or he can quash the permit,” he said.
The SRA has accused the EAB of judicial unfairness, “that’s why we have concerns of this case (and new evidence) being presented back to the EAB,” said Cook.

“Political language – and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists – is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.”

– George Orwell, Politics and the English Language, 1946



6 comments to Polak–Shawnigan Dirty Dirt Permit Can’t Be Pulled Without Evidence Of Ecological Harm

  • Lavonne Huneck

    Once again the question: Since this whole thing is in contravention of Land Use, given to the regional district by the Local Government Act, why is this being allowed to continue? The legal question is whether MOE has the authority to overturn the Local Government Act. CVRD has a law suit awaiting the judge’s decision. If CVRD wins, who pays to remove all this stuff???

  • sally davies

    Let us not forget that the “toxic” PERC soil that was mistakenly dumped on Lot 21 (& spotted by an alert quarry worker, not a technician), is still on the site, despite rumoured efforts to simply spread it around & cover it up.

  • Robert Arndt

    All this will not insure long or short term clean water. I will have to start commissions to crd and the province for sooke lake water supplies for the area

  • richard

    Westcoastsyrinx AKA Pat Chreighton…Precedent was set with the leaching of orange water from lot 21 into Shawnigan Creek. It is now known that water from lot 21 and 23 will eventually wind up in the creek. Simpler minds will only equate the samples taken now as forever samples.

  • Westcoastsyrinx

    The fill for remediation is NOT listed as toxic, nor is it in any way “hazardous” if you are talking about the stuff Furstenau attacked Port Moody for sending to the quarry. Your use of those terms is inflammatory, which is probably why W5 was saying it was the residents who were suffering from a toxic enviroment, not mother nature. Sonia Furstenau admits that she is an “activist” so she clearly has been looking for an issue to stir up controversy since moving to Shawnigan Lake, which she thinks is so “pristine.” It might be closer to being “pristine,” if she spent time and the money she just blew on lawyers, upgrading a non existant sewer system. How very sad that Furstenau’s hobbies have badly damaged the psyches of long time residents of Shawnigan Lake who have been quite happy to consume what is in the lake up to this point. As the quarry is up a gentle slope a whole two kilometres away from the lake, I am sure there will never be an issue around the quarry having any influence at all on the quality of lake water.

  • sally davies

    “Their opposition appeared a 15,000-name petition handed to Polak in the legislature last year.” It should be noted that Christie Clark & Mary Polak did not acknowledge or accept the petition signed by 15,000 people. Names that were gathered after months of door-knocking, & standing at malls. I was there to witness it. Now they want us to believe that they want our input or anything we have to offer will hold sway on their determination to support business over people?

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