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Soil probe pledged

May 09 2012

B.C. Environment Minister Terry Lake has promised to investigate concerns about trucking contaminated soil into the Cowichan Valley Regional District.

Lake met on Tuesday with CVRD board representatives who are concerned about the potential impact of contaminated soil on drinking water and the environment.

"Each year, thousands of trucks travel north over the Malahat to dump loads of soil in the Cowichan Valley," said a letter given to Lake at the meeting.

"Some of the soil is destined for 'legal' facilities and locations, but the CVRD believes much of the soil is dumped at unauthorized or unregulated sites."

The first step is identifying if and where contaminated soil is being dumped in the Cowichan Valley, Lake said. Then the ministry will seek ways to comply with the law and enforcement to prevent it from happening in future.

Lake said the ministry would test soil and water near known dump sites within the next few weeks.

"With the spring runoff, it's important that we do it now," he said.

Rob Hutchins, chairman of the CVRD board, said he felt the minister had heard their concerns. "It's a good-news story for us," Hutchins said.

Among the CVRD's requests to the ministry are that soil at the 11 known dump sites be analyzed, water at Shawnigan creek be tested for contaminants, spot checks be done on trucks carrying soils into the valley and a protocol be developed to ensure local governments are informed in a timely manner about applications for soil relocation.

The ministry will make a presentation before the CVRD board during its next meeting outlining the government regulations and how they work.

Lake promised anyone caught illegally dumping contaminated soil "will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law."

Soil that is clean can be dumped on private land without a permit but soil with contaminants can be moved only with a contaminated soil relocation agreement, Lake said.

Contaminated soil has been an issue for about 12 years but it made headlines last week when soil was dumped in a Shawnigan Lake Road driveway.

A neighbour who had filmed the trucks going by thought the dumping was a warning, but an investigation by RCMP determined it was unrelated to her.

A man said he dumped the dirt in the driveway because he had a business dispute with the homeowner. No charges are being laid.

smcculloch@timescolonist.com

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