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B.C. seeks to solve Cowichan dumping dilemma

May 04 2012

B.C. Environment Minister Terry Lake will meet with MLA Bill Routley next week to discuss the dumping of contaminated soil from Greater Victoria in forested land in the Shawnigan area.

The transport of contaminated soil is legal under provincial laws, but the dirt must be tested beforehand and deemed compatible with the environment at its destination.

Four local soil relocation permits have been granted since 2000, yet the Cowichan Valley Regional District says thousands of truckloads of soil have been dumped at 11 known sites in the Cowichan Valley. The regional district and residents suspect many of the dump sites contain contaminated material.

Lake said Thursday that there may be some confusion over clean fill, which can be dumped on private land without a permit.

"We are working with the Cowichan Valley Regional District because they can put in bylaws that close that gap," said Lake outside the legislature.

Lake said he was not aware of the CVRD's effort to draw up bylaws prohibiting illegal dumping of contaminated soil, but said the ministry was willing to work with the district to address issues of concern.

The ministry has identified two sites in the Shawnigan and Malahat areas that can accept contaminated material, said Tom Anderson, the CVRD's general manager of planning and development, on Thursday.

"But what about the hundreds and thousands of truckloads that are coming up and going to all these other sites?" Anderson said. If the other sites are accepting contaminated soil and not just clean fill, they are doing so illegally, he said. that all those truckloads of dirt going to all those other sites is clean," Anderson said. "I think they're relying on the property owners to [get a soil relocation permit]."

Soil is supposed be tested by a qualified professional prior to being moved, yet the CVRD said it had not been notified of the results of these tests - or whether they are even being done on many of the truckloads heading into the Cowichan Valley.

"We just want to know that the soil is clean, because we've got mountains of it growing, and we don't have the mandate to get involved in contaminated soil because it's a provincial mandate," Anderson said.

"We've been trying for many, many years to say, 'Please, go test this soil that's coming up the Malahat and show us it's clean soil.' "

Anderson suggested ministry staff spend a day on the Malahat taking samples and testing dirt heading north to the dump sites, and then release the results.

smcculloch@timescolonist.com rfshaw@timescolonist.com

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