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Need for landfill remediation outlined by Powell River resident

Former Squatters Creek dump site subject of civil litigation; Property owner frustrated with responses from city
Quebec Avenue resident Brian Hasselback appeared before City of Powell River’s committee of the whole to express concerns over the location of the Squatters Creek landfill and the effect it is having on residents.

A resident of an area of Westview in the vicinity of the old Max Cameron Senior Secondary School that is the subject of a lawsuit appeared before city councillors to express his frustration regarding the issue.

Brian Hasselback, who lives on Quebec Avenue, appeared as a delegation before the city’s committee of the whole to outline concerns about the Squatters Creek landfill and the effect on residents.

“I’m here to speak to the Squatters Creek landfill, or as I refer to it, unfortunately, as a debacle,” said Hasselback. “It has to be stated and acknowledged that this issue affects 17 homeowners, our builder and area businesses. None of what I am going to tell you is positive, but the city’s complete mismanagement of this issue has turned a large part of our lives upside down.

“Our largest asset, like it is for most people, is our home, and it is for all essential purposes worth nothing on the market if we wanted or had to sell today.”

Hasselback said Squatters Creek landfill has a long history with qathet School District and the city.

“To summarize, long ago, a dump, Squatters Creek landfill, was capped off, and the province has a registry showing it as let’s just call it Area A,” said Hasselback. “Subsequent owners, the school board and the city, said it was only a portion of Area A that was affected. However, despite various requests and warnings from the ministry of environment (MOE), no actual documentation delineating the actual dump was ever forwarded to the MOE.

“Reportedly, the school board did perform this exercise around 2011 and apparently gave it to the city, and if this actually happened, they sat on it.”

Hasselback said it appears around May 2023 that the issue was forced to the forefront when the city denied a building permit. He said however, from 2014 to that time, the city had no problem issuing building permits, hence today’s mess.

“Our builder was made aware in June 2023 and subsequently advised his clients shortly after,” said Hasselback. “Last year, the mayor signed off on a letter sent to the MOE and in the first sentence called this a matter of great urgency. It details the history of the Squatters Creek landfill and acknowledged the city issued, without duty of care, building permits on the affected lands.”

Hasselback said in the third week of September 2023, he went to city hall and asked planning staff what is going on, and why the residents were not being advised about such an important issue that impacts them. He said he was told: “I can’t tell you anything.”

He said he sent a subsequent email to planning staff and the response was that the city could not tell him anything.

Hasselback said in October, he wrote mayor Ron Woznow, again expressing dismay, and the reply that he received from the CAO was that he could not be told anything.

On October 23, 2023, he was forwarded a copy of the mayor’s letter to MOE, and it was nice to at last get some information, said Hasselback.

“However, it was penned four months earlier,” said Hasselback. “For me, that felt really disrespectful and didn’t show duty of care.”

On October 30 a letter was sent to the school district and the city from the MOE. Hasseback said the closing statement of the letter sums it up: the MOE finds the school board and the city jointly responsible for remediation of the contaminated site, and responsible for the non-compliance of the conditions imposed in the 2006 site profile decision letter.

Hasselback said the letter requests a response by December 15, and requests provision of a schedule to meet the outstanding requirements.

“The parties addressed opted to ignore and not respond to the letter,” said Hasselback. “On February 15 of this year, the school board and the city received another letter from MOE, which included potential enforcement action. In it, MOE notes no response from the parties by the required December 15 stipulation.”

Hasselback said the ministry has made a decision that it will focus attention on the city as the current owner, and the city is non-compliant. He added that on March 25 in a letter, under the Environmental Management Act, the city has been served with a site investigation order. He said a key point is that the city failed to take into account the residents’ health and safety or environmental impacts.

Hasselback added that on April 4, the city was served notice of civil claim from developer Alan Rebane.

Chief administrative officer Lisa Bhopalsingh said due to the fact that the matter is under litigation, the city cannot comment.

“I’d like to say we do acknowledge your concerns and the frustration it causes,” said Bhopalsingh. “We are proceeding carefully, but aren’t able to speak because of the legalities involved.”

Councillors had no questions for Hasselback.

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