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NEWS: Environmental Law Clinic seeks drinking-water order to halt Raven coal mine

Members of the Comox Valley chapter joined with several groups to oppose the Raven coal mine on Chinese New Year, February 10.

Members of the Comox Valley chapter joined with several groups to oppose the Raven coal mine on Chinese New Year, February 10.

The Victoria Times Colonist reports, “The water supply in the Comox Valley will be threatened if the proposed Raven Coal Mine goes ahead, says the University of Victoria’s Environmental Law Clinic, which wants the Vancouver Island Health Authority to step in and halt the project until vital questions are resolved.”

“Calvin Sandborn, the clinic’s legal director, and law student Megan Seiling have asked VIHA to issue a drinking-water health-hazard prevention order under the Drinking Water Protection Act… The request to VIHA’s drinking water officer, Dr. Charmaine Enns, is being made because the provincial/federal environmental assessment process does not adequately address the risks that Fanny Bay residents will face if their wells or aquifers are contaminated, Sandborn said.”

“The UVic law clinic is acting on behalf of the Fanny Bay Waterworks Improvement District and Ships Point Improvement District, both water authorities potentially affected by the project. …Terry Avery, Fanny Bay Waterworks District trustee, said the potential effects are a huge concern. ‘It seems such an assault on our drinking water — and drinking water is the new gold,’ she said.”

“The request includes a report by hydro-geologist Gilles Wendling, who says the proposed mine poses ‘a significant risk of an imminent drinking water health hazard’. Rock disposal is likely to leach toxic heavy metals into groundwater and surface water sources downhill from the project, Wendling’s report says. ‘It is vitally important that a comprehensive mapping of aquifers throughout the region takes place before any decisions are made about whether or not to proceed with a coal mine,’ Wendling wrote.”

“Local councils also want more information about the effect of a coal mine on drinking water and the shellfish industry. The City of Courtenay, Town of Comox and the Comox Valley Regional District have each passed motions asking for aquifer mapping and that the environmental assessment be referred to an independent review panel with public hearings.”

“VIHA spokeswoman Sarah Plank said there has not yet been time to go through the report.”

The Council of Canadians Comox Valley chapter has been actively raising concerns about the proposed Raven coal mine since 2010. In September 2011, Maude Barlow spoke at a large public forum in Courtenay in opposition to this mine. In November 2012, the Council of Canadians formally expressed its opposition to the Raven coal mine at our annual general meeting in Nanaimo.

For related campaign blogs, please see http://canadians.org/blog/?s=%22raven+coal%22.