A 51-year-old Kitchener man charged with dumping toxic waste at a Conestogo-area sugar bush was remanded in court this week, but there could be others involved in the incident not yet in police custody, property owner Michelle Shannon and Kitchener-Conestoga MPP Michael Harris say.
Waterloo Regional Police charged Donald William Hector with mischief over $5,000 on July 10, following an investigation into the case of 24 barrels containing oily water, waste grease, acid powders and polychlorinated biphenyl, surreptitiously stashed at the end of a farm lane at Michelle Shannon and John Weber’s Weeby Place property in May.
Hector’s case was remanded at the Waterloo Regional Courthouse in Kitchener Monday morning, expected to be picked up again Thursday afternoon by video link from the Maplehurst Correctional Complex in Milton.
WRPS spokesperson Olaf Heinzel said the arrest was the result of “good detective work and information from the community” adding that, “The investigation is continuing and investigators have not ruled out further charges if appropriate.”
But according to Shannon, police told her they know that others were involved in the incident.
“My understanding is that the person that they charged is the person who did the actual dumping, he was the mover, but it was not his waste,” she said. “He was hired for that job. And so the person who generated that waste is not being charged by the police because, I guess, what he did, he didn’t break any laws. But my guess is he had to have known that it wasn’t being done legally.”
WRPS would not confirm if other suspects are being investigated.
“I am not aware of any information of this sort being released by WRPS,” Heinzel said. “To avoid the possibility of impeding the ongoing investigation, we won’t be releasing any additional information until the investigators are in a position to do so.”
The possibility of other suspects was also raised by Harris, who was instrumental in bringing together Safety Kleen, Aevitas and Waste Management to assist with the cleanup – free of charge – after public authorities refused to help Shannon and Weber dispose of the barrels.
“The barrels came from within Kitchener,” Harris said, after attending Hector’s bail hearing Monday morning. “That was based on a police report that was read into the record (July 13) at the bail hearing.”
Harris added that police were able to track down the source of the barrels thanks to a tip from a local waste disposal company who had been called in by the property owner to provide a quote for the waste’s removal.
Last week, Harris wrote a letter to the Ministry of the Environment calling on Minister Glenn Murray to review the situation and “lay the most severe punishment possible.”
In an e-mail, MOE spokeswomen Kate Jordan said that “the ministry has been working in partnership with the Waterloo Regional Police Service in this investigation and is aware of the charges that were brought forth. The ministry is continuing our own investigation into the incident. We are looking at alleged offences that have occurred under environmental legislation. While charges have yet to be laid in this case, violators of environmental legislation can face significant penalties. An individual or company found guilty of illegal waste dumping can face a maximum fine of $100,000 for each offence.”
Shannon and Weber discovered the mess on May 27, and suspect the dumping must have taken place sometime between May 7 and that date. The cleanup took weeks, with experts brought in to test the contents in the barrels as well as the surrounding soil and organic materials. The last of the affected soil was excavated and removed July 9.
Going forward, Weber and Shannon plan to install gates and trail cameras along their sugar bush farm lane.
And Harris hopes that stiff penalties in this case will deter illegal dumping in the future.
“I think that this could act as a major wakeup call and deterrent for others that may want to take the cheap way out in disposing of toxic and hazardous materials the improper way; it pays to do it right the first time and it pays to get the professionals who dispose of these toxic materials in an environmentally proper way and if you don’t, you’re going to be spending time at Maplehurst.”