Nanaimo council orders removal of contaminated soil

NANAIMO – A Nanaimo property faces its third order from the city in less than a year.

The clock is ticking for a Nanaimo landowner who has 30 days to haul away contaminated soil.

Council has ordered the owner of a Howard Avenue home to remove contaminated soil that presents a leaching concern and the city will hand over information about where the dirt is believed to have come from to the province.

Council slapped a clean-up order on the property last June, where there was garbage, wood and shingle scraps and discarded furniture. Between the time council issued the order and when the city went to get estimates for cleanup, soil partially covered  the debris and it was found contaminated with lead, zinc and tin.

“In other words they didn’t clean the property up, they just went and dumped dirt on top of the debris that was there,” said Rod Davidson, the city’s manager of bylaw, regulation and security.

Owner Duart Rapton said the soil was to fill his yard which was getting bogged down with water. He said he got it from 540 Franklyn St. and nobody told him anything was wrong with it. He was in front of council after not fulfilling a separate order from October to remove the soil and wanted more time, telling council he hasn’t been able to move it because the weather has been so bad.

Davidson was asking council to declare the soil a nuisance under the Community Charter and have the owners remove it in 30 days. The city could have removed the soil and billed the landowner, but learned the tipping fee would be up to $40,000 because of the contamination.

When soil exceeds contaminated site regulations for the province, it has to go to an approved site, which is the difference in cost, according to Kim Fowler, city chief sustainability officer.

Legal counsel recommended action under the community charter rather than relying on the city’s  property maintenance bylaw. It is ensuring the city follows the correct process to accomplish the work if necessary without having taxpayers pay the fee, Davidson said.

Council approved the order, with Coun. Jim Kipp opposed. Mayor Bill McKay asked how contaminated soil could leave the Franklyn Street address and end up on Rapton’s property without a permit and city knowledge.

Davidson said when it left Franklyn it wasn’t tested and it wasn’t known it had the tin, lead and zinc levels of such a measurement it had become a contaminant.

The city cannot confirm where the soil originated, but Davidson told the News Bulletin the site Rapton mentioned did go through the development permit process and there was no indication of contaminated soil. Because the soil was also less than 500 cubic yards it did not trigger the need for a permit to move it.

“Now that it’s got to our attention that there is a perceived contaminated site, we will be turning it over to the Ministry of Environment,” said Davidson, adding the province will make a determination whether remediation work needs to be done where the soil came from.