Government suspends quarry?s permit to take, store contaminated soil

Sunday, January 29th, 2017

Lindsay Kines
The Province

The B.C. government has suspended a permit that allowed a quarry to receive and store contaminated soil upstream from Shawnigan Lake.

Environment Minister Mary Polak announced the move late Friday, using rarely used powers under the Environmental Management Act.

“Effective immediately, I have suspended the waste discharge permit for Cobble Hill Holdings due to their failure to address both outstanding as well as past non-compliances,” Polak said in a statement.

“I am also signalling my intention to cancel the permit if the Ministry of Environment statutory decision-maker does not receive the required documents, as outlined in my suspension letter to the company, within 15 business days.”

Polak said she has informed the company that it must still meet all monitoring requirements and prevent pollution regardless of the suspension.

“I am also issuing a spill prevention order to ensure appropriate measures are taken to reduce the risk of leachate escaping from the facility into the environment.”

Polak said the decision was based on advice from technical experts in the ministry.

She first threatened to shut down the site last fall over Cobble Hill’s failure to comply with the permit.

The permit to store soil in the quarry was awarded in 2013, stayed pending an appeal and then upheld by the environmental appeal board in 2015.

But in a 49-page decision released last week, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Robert Sewell found the board’s handling of expert evidence led to an unfair hearing of the case.

He also concluded that the board was misled about the relationship between the quarry’s owners and Active Earth Engineering Ltd., which carried out the site’s technical assessment.

The justice said there was “overwhelming evidence” that Active Earth had “an ownership interest of some sort” in the soil storage facility — information that came to light only after the appeal board rendered its decision.

The justice said that if the question before him had been whether to set aside the permit, he would have had no difficulty doing so because the technical assessment was done “by persons who were biased in favour of approving the project.”

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