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Minister sees soil dumping first-hand

Oct 25 2012
Environment Minister Terry Lake toured sites where contaminated soil is allegedly being dumped illegally. 

Environment Minister Terry Lake toured sites where contaminated soil is allegedly being dumped illegally.

Photograph by: Adrian Lam, Times Colonist , Times Colonist

B.C. Environment Minister Terry Lake saw first-hand Tuesday what Cowichan residents are upset about as he and representatives of the Cowichan Valley Regional District visited a number of rural properties where contaminated soil is being dumped.

The ongoing practice of contaminated dirt being hauled from Greater Victoria developments and dumped in the Cowichan Valley has irked those living near dump sites. There are concerns over contaminated soil leeching into aquifers, creeks and rivers.

It's legal to move clean soil as long as it is in keeping with local zoning laws. But moving contaminated soil without a permit is against the law. The CVRD says there are about a dozen sites in their area where contaminated soil has been dumped.

The field trip Tuesday allowed Lake to see what regional district directors have been talking about.

"If I lived there and I saw truck after truck coming in with soil from somewhere else, I would be concerned too," Lake said Wednesday.

"I am concerned and I want to make sure there's nothing here that's causing a pollution problem in the Cowichan Valley."

The group visited a site on Koksilah Road that has a permit to remediate contaminated soil. There are local concerns about its proximity to Kelvin Creek and Koksilah River, but Lake said ongoing monitoring will ensure contaminants won't reach those waterways.

Bruce Fraser, Shawnigan's representative on the CVRD board, said the field trip included a stop at a "very active" dump site in an area known as Goldstream Heights. "Somebody is using their private land as a dump site and right now there are literally hundreds of trucks going in there," said Fraser. "All the time we were there with the minister, the trucks were passing us every which way every few minutes, bringing soil in and we have no idea what's in the soil."

The CVRD and Lake agreed it should be clear to all parties where the soil being dumped in the Cowichan Valley originates, and what's in it.

Lake told the directors he would increase monitoring of the dirt being trucked to the Cowichan Valley.

Fraser found Lake's response to the field trip to be "very constructive."

"The limiting factor on public safety concerns being properly managed is simply the capacity of the ministry to do the check monitoring," Fraser said. "To make sure what [private industry] say they're doing is what they're actually doing."

smcculloch@timescolonist.com

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