‘Contaminated fill’ to be removed from farm land

In 2005, the Agricultural Land Commission issued a stop-work order after a south Aldergrove property owner trucked in an unknown quantity of fill onto his land without a permit. The fill contained wood and construction debris.

According to a November, 2009 letter from Madrone Environmental Services, the landowner, Mohinder Paul, was not required to remove the contaminants.

But he will now, if he wants to bring in more fill to his south Aldergrove property.

Last month, Township council ordered Paul to remove any contaminated fill that remains on his land at 913 – 264 St.

Council took the action after it passed a motion advising the Agricultural Land Commission that it does not oppose Paul’s application for a soil deposit permit to add 12,000 cubic metres of fill to his land.

The volume of fill is the equivalent of 1,700 truckloads.

According to a staff report presented to council on May 9, Paul’s plan is to create “a soil structure capable of retaining rainfall as well as to enhance the depth of growing medium” for a blueberry farm.

Madrone was hired by Paul to carry out soil assessment.

This was done by Sonia Meili who wrote in the 2009 report: “Taking into account background levels for the Lower Mainland, my analysis found that the imported fill meets the criteria for agricultural use and is therefore not contaminated.”

Meili added that the Township and the ALC “have not requested that the previously imported [fill] be removed from the site.”

In the same report, Meili noted: “Woody debris and other construction debris which I noted scattered on the surface and buried in the previously imported fill, should be collected and removed from the site.”

The same report, Councillor Charlie Fox observed, notes that a fish-bearing stream and wetland is located in a ravine immediately south of the proposed fill areas. The fill area covers three acres of 13 acre property.

Last October, the Township circulated a mail-out to neighbours about the permit application, and received no written responses.

Nevertheless, the application should go to a public hearing, Councillor Kim Richter said.

Councillor Grant Ward strenuously objected.

“We’ve been through this before,” he said. “This is a citizen who has been here for many years and is trying to do the right thing.”

Fox backed Richter’s motion. “If someone has already dumped soil on the property illegally, what penalty did he pay? Obviously this was a case of illegal dumping.”

Referring to Meili’s report that “woody debris and other construction debris” should be removed,

Fox asked who would carry out inspection to ensure that this is achieved.

“How are we going to guarantee that this process is actually going to be followed?” he asked.

The ALC will oversee the work “in a heavy-handed way, in my opinion,” Ward advised.

The motion to hold a public hearing was defeated, but a majority of council supported Richter’s proposal calling for the removal of any contaminated fill.

Council also agreed that a qualified professional will carry out an inspections to ensure that new fill is not contaminated and meets agricultural standards.

Council agree that a qualified professional must produce a certificate showing that the elevation of the property, once fill import has been completed, does not exceed that of adjacent properties at the property lines.