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britannia beach

By Amy Fendley Debate continues over the Britannia Mine reclamation and remediation project, with MLA Ted Nebbeling having announced his opposition to part of the plan. The situation that stands at that mine, operated from 1902 to 1974, is that it is the largest single point source polluter of heavy metals in North America, and somebody has to clean up the mess. The mine is situated on private lands, so the owner of Copper Beach Estates, has to pay for the clean up. Tim Drummond, has proposed to build a commercial landfill for contaminated, metal-bearing soils on the property to subsidize a water treatment plant which would filter metals and other contaminants out of the polluted Britannia Creek. "In an earlier day we thought the government would have put some money forth to help out," says Brent Leigh, an economic development officer for the District of Squamish. "But if government doesn’t come through, the logical response is to look somewhere else. You can’t do anything until you solve the pollution problem." Up until now, there had been no one to test the "no" question — the "what if I don’t want a landfill in my backyard" question. That is, no one other than resident taxpayers. Nebbeling, the Liberal MLA for West Vancouver-Garibaldi, has recently joined some residents in opposing the importation of contaminated soil to pay for the water treatment system. He says his opposition towards the proposal came about after he attended some of the meetings and did his own analysis of the situation. "I got a lot of calls from my constituents after really having an open mind about this," said Nebbeling. "My conclusion was, sorry, I have to oppose the construction of a landfill to contain contaminated metals and soil." Nebbeling attributes his decision to three main factors: the rock mass in the Britannia Beach area and its potential instability; potential contamination of the watershed; and increased truck traffic on Highway 99. "The area earmarked for the deposits, in my opinion, after talks with environmental engineers, is that the rock mass there is shale not granite, which would not hold in a catastrophic event like an earthquake or landslide. And that doesn’t provide a guarantee, I would look for a guarantee that this landfill would be contained and I find it unacceptable and a risk." The possibility of a toxic spill occurring at the landfill, also leaves Nebbeling shaking his head. "Any spillage out of that area, or any spill of the material will end up in the watershed," says Nebbeling. "There is the threat of leaching which would contaminate the water supply. The potential contamination of water for the Furry Creek and Lions Bay residential developments is again, unacceptable." Nebbeling says that he is surprised that no other councils have spoken out to oppose the proposal in regard to increased truck traffic on Highway 99. He also has safety concerns regarding the fact that currently there is nowhere in B.C. where contaminants are allowed to be deposited, as everything is shipped to Alberta or the USA. "Truck traffic on 99 has already gone past what is a reasonable capacity," says Nebbeling. "To add to that 26 big trucks, on a two-way lane carrying heavy loads and crawling, not driving, crawling, will cause even more delays for people travelling 99. "In the past councils have opposed other proposals that have similar interference and safety factors. There are safety risks, it would be a hindrance to the flow of traffic and could discourage people from driving through the Sea to Sky Corridor. This creates a multitude of problems, and it has to go somewhere else. I am very much in favour of finding a solution, but we can’t solve this problem by bring in a potential time bomb to pay for it. It’s fast-tracking and it makes no sense in the long term from a safety perspective. It’s unacceptable and indefensible." Robert McCandless, a geologist for Environment Canada, says that they are giving the proposal a thorough and complete review. In response to comments that the proposal may avoid the Environmental Assessment process, McCandless said: "It appears a viable private opportunity, and the application seems to be moving at a good speed, we are not fast-tracking. It is moving with legislation and depends on the proponent."

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