Feeling a little overwhelmed about cleaning up around the yard before fall gets too far along? Try trading places with workers from Winmar, busily tackling perhaps hundreds of Elmira homes affected by the Sept. 27 chemical release at Chemtura Canada.
Crews were given the task of cleaning off the thousands of brown specks that landed on rooftops, eaves troughs, patio decks and lawn chairs after 4,200 kilograms of the chemical BLE 25 vented into the atmosphere to rain down on parts of the town.
The extensive cleanup process was left in the hands of environmental engineering firm Conestoga-Rovers & Associates and Winmar Property Restoration Specialists, called in to Elmira to visit homes and schools on Chemtura’s behalf. Crews are now conducting door-to-door assessments in the neighbourhood to determine which properties will need to be cleaned. If the substance is found, the company starts a cleanup consisting of wiping down exterior surfaces such as windowsills, door knobs and handles.
“It looks like someone took a paintbrush with dark brown paint and just flicked it,” said Darrin Drake, a customer care representative from Guelph-based Winmar of the BLE 25 splatter. “Some properties have a lot of the speckles, and for others it’s just a few spots here and there.”
The treatment being used on all the outdoor surfaces is Citrusolv, an orange-smelling product that’s a super-concentrated, biodegradable, non-toxic, all-purpose degreaser designed to remove soils such as oil, tar, grease, crayon, lipstick and rubber tire marks, which are normally removed by high pH cleaners or dangerous solvents.
“It seems to be working well so far,” said Drake about the many litres of Citrusolv already dispensed. “But I probably won’t be eating any oranges for the next few months.”
|Drake has found that although the product is doing a fairly good job of cleaning most surfaces, there are some materials which have remained stained, even after the scrubbing.
“It [BLE 25] seems to stick to some surfaces more than others,” he said. “Some of the older plastics are still showing some signs of staining. It’s sort of a trial-and-error basis to see what works and what doesn’t.”
When residents with affected properties are approached by Winmar they are given three options: the homeowner can have the cleaning crew come by their home and perform the wipe-down at an unknown time; have the cleanup done at a time designated by the homeowner; or not participate in the cleanup at all.
Winmar staff has been met with a wide variety of reactions to their arrival at the doorsteps of Elmira residents, some of whom are happy to comply with the process, while others have taken out their frustrations with the situation on the cleaners there to help.
“Most people are pretty receptive. They appreciate that we are out there doing what we are doing, but none of our clients are ever happy when we arrive,” Drake admitted. “We are there because their basement has three feet of water in it or their house has just burnt down, or their kids are sick from mold. It takes a certain type of person to do this job.”
Drake anticipated that the job would be finished sometime next week, and encouraged residents to call their 24-hour emergency line at 519-826-0000 if there were any immediate concerns. Chemtura also has a cleanup hotline set up at 519-669-1671, ext. 313.
“We understand that people are frustrated with what has happened,” concluded Drake. “And we are here to find a solution. We want to focus on how to solve this and make it better.”