Action: Protect Highlands Drinking Water

2013 September 19, by Chapter Council


What’s Happening?


Contaminated waste from the Esquimalt Graving Dock is being dumped in the Craigflower fractured rock aquifer between Thetis Lake Park  and Teanook Creek in the Highlands. This was initiated by the Government of Canada and contracted to Tervita Corp. with litte public consultation and no proper accomodation of First Nations and Highlands residents. The waste is being trucked through Esquimalt, View Royal and Victoria at the rate of 60-90 trucks per day from June 30th 2013 until March 2014.

Short and long term threats:

  • Safe drinking water for Highland residents
  • Safe swimming water at Thetis Lake Park
  • Health and wellbeing of all people, plants and animals who live in theCraigflower Watershed
  • Marine ecology – dredging stirs up the contaminants
  • Air quality and soil quality with dust generated from transporting the waste

What’s in the waste?

Chromium, arsenic, lead, copper, zinc, tributyl-tin, PCBs and other chemicals that have accumulated over the last 100 years in Esquimalt Harbour. These chemicals and heavy metals have proven to be hazardous to the health of humans and ecosystems.

Why be concerned?  

Tervita does not guarantee that the containment cell liners will outlast the hazards of the contaminated sediments – which can persist for centuries. Two spills have been reported in the last two months, one at the Tervita site in the Highlands, and one in Victoria (VIHA, July, 2013). Research on very similar landfill containment in the US has called into question the longevity of the liners and the adequacy of the peripheral well monitoring system (G.Fred Lee, 2013, retrieved from The waste has been temporarily stockpiled on clay on top of an old cell (Tervita Open House, July 21, 2013).

What do we need?   

We need a stop-work order to be issued immediately, until the following are complete:

  • Improved First Nations and Community consultation
  • A third party, independent environment and health impact study
  • A disaster risk assessment
  • A hydro-geological assessment

What can we do?

  • Download a poster here and share this information
  • Ask the Ministers of Environment (Mary Polak: and Health (Terry Lake:
  • to stop work on this project until the proper assessments are done
  • Advocate and educate to protect all groundwater
  • Work with other communities like Shawnigan Lake residents and Cowichan tribes to ensure that that all watersheds are protected

For more information, or to get involved, contact Darlene Sanderson, Ph.D
Bharat Chandramouli, Ph.D, Council of Canadians

Supported by The Wilderness Committee and the Council of Canadians Victoria.