No cleanup yet at ‘orphan’ toxic site in Langley

A full year has passed since police raided a Willoughbly slope home and found a drug lab, but none of the toxic byproducts that spilled onto nearby lands have been cleaned up.

Neighbours like Diana Sampson are concerned that no level of government has taken action yet to start a cleanup.

“It could be a week, it could be a year, it could be never, the way things are going,” said Sampson, one of who lives downhill from the former drug house.

For about three years before the April 24, 2014 drug raid, neighbours had complained of an odd smell coming from ditches that ran down the hills on and around 207th Street.

Repeated complaints to the Township had turned up none of the usual suspects, such as manure or other farm runoff.

The residents learned what was going on when Surrey RCMP swooped down on the property at 20668 72nd Ave. and discovered a garage converted into an ecstasy lab. Large quantities of chemicals and equipment were seized by police wearing hazmat suits. Officers found that the byproducts of the drug production were simply being poured into drains that dumped into the backyard of the property. 

After learning that there was a real possibility of contamination, nearby residents complained to multiple government agencies for months before any testing began.

By early May, residents had been warned by the provincial Ministry of the Environment to be cautious.

“For the interim, as a precaution and until proper analysis can be completed, it is recommended that you keep children, pets, and other people occupying your property clear from the adjacent land and surface water drainage systems and not use any wells,” the letter said.

The landowner was ordered to test their own soil and that of Trevor Lassam, a neighbour directly downhill.

Yet there were delays, with the landowner not filing a report to the Ministry of Environment by an August deadline.

It wasn’t until the fall that boreholes were dug on Lassam’s property and in mid-November, he finally got a Site Risk Classification report that revealed an industrial solvent, dichloromethane, had contaminated his land. 

A clean up should have followed, but so far there has been no action.

A statement from the Ministry of Environment said that “cleanup has not yet begun because the owner of the property and the tenant responsible for the drug lab have been unable or unwilling to conduct the required remediation.”

The ministry is considering classifying the lands as an “orphan site” and doing the cleanup itself, although a letter from the ministry to Langley Township suggests that decision has already been made.

Meanwhile, charges have been laid against one man allegedly connected to the drug lab.

Andrew Ronald Slemko, a Surrey resident, is facing four charges of drug possession for the purpose of trafficking, a charge of production of a controlled substance, and a charge of unlawful possession of chemicals and equipment.

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