Sure I am of this, that you have only to endure to conquer.
Here I go again, my apologies on revisiting the same theme but it is what runs foremost in my thoughts these days. I am writing again about the situation my community faces with regards to a contaminated soil facility located at the headwaters of our watershed. This contentious issue has been a battle for the residents for almost five years now. In July 2012 15,000 signatures were collected to oppose the decision of the Environmental Appeal Board to issue a permit. The Ministry of Environment did not acknowledge the fears of our community, did not lend credence to our research evidence, did not in any way support us or recognize the wellspring of fear and building mistrust in our community. Most importantly, they underestimated the power and resilience of the collective resources of the residents of Shawnigan Lake and their supporters.
The Premier, Christy Clark and her Minister of Environment, Mary Polak both appear to suffer the same sad malady. In short, it is their unshakable belief in their own inflated feelings of personal ability, privilege and infallibility. They refuse to admit the possibility of their own error or failure, even in the face of irrefutable evidence and intractable problems. They exhibit the traits of a person so sure they are unquestionably correct that they show no regard for the conventions and demands of society. We call this a God Complex. I suppose that is fitting, for Mary Polak, despite her apparent lack of concern for the children of Shawnigan Lake (and until this election an NDP stronghold, rapidly turning Green), finds it appropriate to dictate her religious ideologies on children in her own riding. As a Trustee on the Surrey School Board, she voted down a request, along with the majority of the school board, to add three specific books dealing with same-sex families as recommended learning resources for the kindergarten and grade one curriculum. These books were requested by a kindergarten teacher to reflect the realities of today’s families and to teach his pupils about diversity and tolerance. The BC Government also declined to approve the same books. Mary felt compelled to protect those children, from what, Love ?Christy Clark, it seems is very devoted to her son, as seen in a multitude of photo-ops over the course of her term, why she even trotted him off to the tarmac to meet Prince William in Victoria. I wonder what she’d have done if someone had handed him a nice fresh bottle of Shawnigan Water on that warm summery day. Would she have quickly knocked it away to seep into the ground, then turn and rush away, leaving someone else to clean up the spill?
Unfortunately for them, their carefully crafted house of cards seems poised to fall, just in time for an election and for the voters of BC to recognize their lack of care and concern for their own electorate. A recent decision by a Supreme Court Judge in one of the Shawnigan suits was a scathing report outlining the governments use of opinion based evidence instead of factual evidence, their lack of due diligence and over-sight, a file that was mis-managed from the beginning. The contaminated soil owners and the government have ben accused of failing to provide full disclosure on their beneficiary partners in this and other projects. Today Premier Christy Clark is in the news because of an alleged conflict of interest between herself, involving financial gain, and the proponents of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline project. Sarah Miller, who writes a blog published in Politics Canada of the Huff Post, detailed several scandals plaguing the BC Liberals. Amongst them was their triple deleting of emails and records that should have been protected under the Freedom of Information Act. Another was the ongoing nightmare of the residents of Shawnigan. She states “ While the Liberals have continuously claimed the water is fine, recently released reports by the Vancouver Sun show the province has known of elevated nitrate and arsenic levels in the groundwater for more than six months”.
A Wikipedia definition of contaminated soil follows something like this. Contamination or soil pollution as part of land degradation is caused by the presence of xenobiotic (human-made) chemicals or other alterations in the natural soil environment. It is typically caused by industrial activity, agricultural chemicals (or in the case of Shawnigan Lake) improper disposal of waste. The most common chemicals involved are petroleum hydrocarbons, polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons (such as naphthalene and benzo(a)pyrene), solvents, pesticides, lead, and other heavy metals.
The concern over soil contamination stems primarily from health risks, from direct contact with the contaminated soil, vapors from the contaminants, and from secondary contamination of water supplies within and underlying the soil.
Mapping of contaminated soil sites and the resulting cleanup are time-consuming and expensive tasks, requiring extensive amounts of geology, hydrology, chemistry, computer modeling skills, and GIS in Environmental Contamination, as well as an appreciation of the history of industrial chemistry.
The Shawnigan Residents Assosciation has never given up on this long and protracted battle. We have been led through this quagmire of political contrivance, corporate greed and illicit business dealings by Sonia Fursteneau, the Green Candidate for Cowichan Valley. Without her strength we probably would have crumbled in defeat for surely it takes a great leader to keep people motivated and strong in the face of almost insurmountable challenge. It is fairly well documented to say the legal costs are nearing the vicinity of $2 million dollars, raised by this community. The other costs, while perhaps less visible, may in fact be more damaging in the long-term. People have lost time off work, lost sleep, lost their sense of security. Real estate transactions, like my own personal home purchase, were undertaken without full disclosure, which trust me, leaves many sleepless nights wondering about our future and our property values. People have spent hundreds, in some instances, thousands of hours away from their families to support the cause. People have stood in the cold, wet weather and picketed the site of the soil dump, been threatened with lawsuits, been abused by staff of the soil facility. People have made many long trips to courthouses and even to the offices of Mary Polak, only to be ignored, blinds drawn and doors locked and met by the RCMP. That happened in spite of the fact that our protests have always been peaceful and respectful and all we wanted was an audience with the people who are supposed to be our representatives. We have ruminated together, laughed and cried together, fought amongst ourselves when the pressure built and hugged it out afterwards. Some have moved away in fear, some refuse to engage because they simply cannot believe what has happened here. All of us have suffered and all of us have grown together in the face of this.
Chronic stress can and does have a serious impact on a persons’ physical and psychological health. When first we encounter stress we have a “ fight or flight” response by our Sympathetic or Autonomic Nervous System (ANS). Chemicals are released by our adrenal glands, like the hormone epinephrine to help make the muscles and the body become more alert and tense and to essentially help us deal with the issue. Once the “danger” has passed, the Parasympathetic Nervous System (SNS) takes over and relaxes us again. Usually these two systems can maintain balance but when the ANS is constantly being triggered, a chronic situation can lead to multiple stress related conditions. Our minds and bodies are absolutely linked and the physical results of this can lead to things like headaches, cardiovascular disease, immune disorders, depression, insomnia, and anxiety to name a few.
Of course I have not even touched on the ” what if’s” those of us who live here, live with on a daily basis. What if the water becomes undrinkable, unswimmable. What if my children get sick, how will we afford to live without safe drinking water . What will happen to home values ? What if the insanity doesn’t stop and the permit continues? What if the owners walk away and say they’re bankrupt? Who will manage the site when the dumping stops? Where will the money come to keep fighting? What if we could have spent 2 million dollars on a park or a trail around the lake for all to enjoy? What if …
I continue to write on this subject because I feel a need to send it out to the universe.If only a handful of people hear,so be it, I just need to put it down. Please be good to this earth. Choose people to lead us who care. Don’t vote with your wallet, vote with your conscience. Know that without clean water we will all most surely not survive. Understand that money means nothing when people’s lives are at stake. One of the richest men in the world, Steve Jobs couldn’t buy his health in the end. Remember that kindness is free and that we do have the power to affect change and a responsibility to this earth if we want to keep living here for generations to come.
- Risk Assessment Guidance for Superfund, Human Health Evaluation Manual, Office of Emergency and Remedial Response, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington
2) George, Rebecca; Joy, Varsha; S, Aiswarya; Jacob, Priya A. “Treatment Methods for Contaminated Soils – Translating Science into Practice” (PDF). International Journal of Education and Applied Research. Retrieved February 19, 2016.