Group of residents concerned about safety of drinking water

The Campbell River Environmental Committee is doing all it can to try and raise the alarm with the city over a proposed remediation facility

The Campbell River Environmental Committee is doing all it can to try and raise the alarm with the city over a proposed soil remediation facility.

The committee is concerned because the plant, a project of Upland Excavating, would be built close to McIvor Lake – a part of the city’s drinking water system.

Leona Adams, on behalf of the Environmental Committee, wrote a letter to city council last week outlining concerns with the plant intended to treat and deposit up to 50,000 cubic metres of contaminated soil on Upland-owned lands.

“These lands and the entire contaminated soil remediation activities are situated on top of a large aquifer that abuts McIvor Lake,” Adams wrote. “McIvor Lake is part of Lower Campbell Lake and connects to John Hart Lake, which is the source of Campbell River’s drinking water. McIvor Lake and the aquifer are connected.”

But Upland, in a technical report prepared by consultants for the provincial application, said it has satisfied the necessary protocols.

According to the report, “the design, construction and operation of the facility meet or exceed the requirements detailed with the Ministry of Environment protocol.”

The report further outlines how Upland plans to capture any potential runoff waters at the lowest point using a single sump pump.

But Adams said the Environmental Committee is concerned that the restrictions on Upland may not been strong enough.

“Contaminants allowed under industrial standards far exceed what is reasonable for discharge into our drinking watershed,” Adams wrote. “Hydrology studies are needed to determine seepage to the aquifer and what bodies of water and drinking water wells the aquifer impacts.”

Coun. Larry Samson has heard the concerns of the committee and on two occasions has brought the issue forward at city council meetings.

Both times city staff have said the proposal is before the province for first approval. The application is currently being vetted by the Ministry of Environment for a waste discharge permit.

Amber Zirnhelt, the city’s sustainability manager, told Samson in July that the province will be looking at health concerns, environmental concerns and all other issues concerning the waste discharge permit.

She said that if it’s approved by the province then it will go to the city for consideration.

Coun. Samson questioned at last week’s council meeting whether the city should intervene sooner.

He asked city staff whether it was fair to Upland to let the company proceed with an expensive environmental assessment process and application to the province if the city plans to stop the project in its tracks.

“My concern is the proponent is going down the line, ensuring he has all the proper permits and hiring consultants, but then all of a sudden he hits, I’ll say, a road block where he doesn’t have the proper zoning,” Samson said. “Would it not make more sense if we could look at it, prior to him going down this road and spending all this money on consultants, to ensure he is in compliance?”

Ron Neufeld, the city’s general manager of operations, said that is up to Upland.

“That’s really the judgement call of the applicant,” Neufeld said. “At this point in time he’s elected to proceed through the provincial process first. However, there still is the city process that would need to be satisfied.”

Neufeld said if the application is approved by the province, the city will review the application according to its own zoning and development permit regulations.