A private Metchosin property where someone was fined years ago for clear-cutting has been looking more and more like a commercial landfill operation in recent years, according to residents.
Jay Shukin said “it’s really good to see” inspectors in the area in recent days. The inspectors appeared to check the soil quality on the property, which has been under investigation by the district over the years for illegal dumping.
Metchosin Mayor John Ranns said files of the investigation would finally be available to be released this month. He explained he’s under strict advisement from the district’s lawyer to not speak about the investigation in case it jeopardizes enforcement.
Several residents reported seeing more than 20 trucks on a single day in June bringing in material to dump in the excavated valley. Resident Mark Atherton said he suspected the hole went a few dozen feet deep and reported seeing drywall being dumped there, which is banned.
Ranns said gathering evidence and active enforcement that involved Captial Regional District inspectors on “quasi-criminal” investigation has been a “slow” and “lengthy” process that has been deterred multiple times “on the road to getting compliance” from the resident.
He admitted being reluctant to litigate the issue because neighbour disputes are the “most difficult to deal with.”
“If you’re not careful in how you undertake investigations. You can generate serious animosity between neighbours, and that often makes things worse.”
A stop work order was issued last year when municipal staff felt that the 2,000 cubic metre soil deposit permit might have been exceeded, Ranns noted. That halted operations and there has been no recent activity reported by residents.
Residents have come to council worried for years over the health risk the dumping poses to the well water, which many residents in the rural municipality rely on. The fill zone near Mount Ash has been a sore spot for the rural district since 2012.
Metchosin has had meetings with the concerned residents and assured them about checking water contamination in separate meetings. “It’s a serious one, that we’re taking seriously,” Ranns said.
The general lack of trust with government has been difficult to deal with, which social media has made worse, Ranns said. The issue has led to contentious council meetings with residents, where residents complained lack of trust with the district while councillors have not been allowed to respond, he said.
“They are free to impugn our character and our capability, and we are not in a position to respond to that, and it has been frustrating.”