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Minister 'not aware' of tainted-soil turmoil in Cowichan Valley

May 03 2012

B.C.’s environment minister says he is unaware of the Cowichan Valley’s growing frustration over the dumping of contaminated soil, but that he’s willing to meet with concerned politicians to try to solve the dispute.

Terry Lake said he knew little about the situation Wednesday when asked about reports that the Cowichan Valley Regional Board has repeatedly raised concerns over how his ministry approves, regulates and monitors contaminated soil dumps in the Cowichan area.

“I have had no request from the regional district to meet on this particular subject,” Lake told reporters at the legislature.

“I’ve had no phone calls from the regional district directly to my office.

“I’m happy to meet with them and discuss it. I understand staff are looking into it.”

Contaminated soil from capital region construction projects has for years been trucked over the Malahat and into forest dumping sites in Cowichan, with local politicians unable to outlaw or regulate the practice because permits are controlled by the Environment Ministry.

The board has also complained that it has little input in the ministry’s approval process for soil-relocation permits.

The issue appears to have been a long-standing sore point in the community.

“I can’t explain why this has become an issue,” Lake said.

“I have not been made aware it is an ongoing issue. If it is, we’ll look after it.”

The dispute escalated after a someone dumped a truckload of dirt in the driveway of a resident.

“Certainly, we don’t condone the illegal dumping of material, but this appears to be an isolated incident that we are working with Cowichan on,” Lake said.

The soil dumped on the driveway has been tested and is only contaminated with salt, and not hydrocarbons from diesel and ground-up asphalt as had been previously reported, the ministry said in a statement.

The Environment Ministry said it has approved four contaminated site relocation agreements in the Cowichan Valley since 2000, but that any hazardous soil must be handled by a facility authorized to handle waste and that all soil is tested before it is moved.

rshaw@timescolonist.com媍

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