Having Lanxess clean up contamination hotspots along the Canagagigue Creek remains a pressing issue for Woolwich’s Technical Advisory Group, which again stressed its desire at a meeting last week.
TAG members also agreed to push for the Elmira chemical plant operator to create a monitoring program to see if hotspots re-collect in the creek after they’ve been removed.
The Technical Advisory Group is a body of experts formed to review the remediation process of Lanxess and offer advice to township council.
The hotspots are areas of extraordinarily high levels of contamination in the creek.
“TAG has already requested ‘hotspot’ removal in our comments on the draft human health and environmental risk assessment, this is not new based on last night’s discussion,” said Tiffany Svensson, the group’s chair, following the November 10 meeting.
“What we said last night was that we will continue to pursue this request. We also said that whatever additional remedial steps may be completed by Lanxess, TAG agrees that ongoing monitoring needs to remain in place.”
Susan Bryant, a longtime environmental advocate and member of TAG, has been involved with monitoring the cleanup as a citizen since a plume of contamination in an aquifer under Elmira – formerly the source of the town’s drinking water – was first discovered in 1989. She says removing the hotspots is a very important target that continues to be ignored.
“I just don’t get it. That you can have hotspots that are orders of magnitude higher than any regulated standard… how can you just leave them there?” she said.
“When there are so few of them, when they are accessible, they’re in shallow water or bank soil so that’s not hard to get to. That doesn’t compute for me at all.”
“The draft risk assessment, which has been submitted to Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks, and is undergoing the review process, indicates that there are no unacceptable human-health risks, including from so-called hotspots. However, as the company has stated previously, Lanxess will clean-up any and all areas identified as posing an unacceptable risk,” said Michael Mackin, a spokesperson for the company, in an email to The Observer.
Bryant says a monitoring program is critical because the contaminated soil will continue to erode into the creek indefinitely.
“Everybody knows that there’s going to be ongoing deposition of DDTs and dioxins downstream of the plant. That’s never going to stop,” she said. “I think we need a better estimate of how much is coming off, and how fast it’s coming off. I think that’s hard to get, but we haven’t got any information on that. And closely look at the source areas.”
Then, Bryant says monitoring is needed to keep track of the contaminated sediment to see “where this stuff lodges itself as it goes downstream.”
“Lanxess conducts significant ongoing monitoring related to the legacy environmental issues. The company will meet all MECP monitoring requirements, as well as any monitoring efforts deemed necessary based on the outcome of the risk assessment,” Mackin said.
The determination of whether or not the hotspots will be cleaned up is part of the risk assessment process for the Canagagigue Creek that Lanxess is undertaking.
Once finished, the document will be the final agreement between Lanxess and the provincial government, with input from experts on behalf of the citizens of Woolwich, on how much risk chemicals in the creek potentially pose to people and the environment, and the agreed-upon actions the company will undertake to address that risk.
The province has not issued a control order to Lanxess to conduct the risk assessment.