In approving an expansion at the Safety-Kleen plant this week, Woolwich council was not prepared to write the Breslau company a blank cheque. The township plans to keep a close eye on the site-approval process when the project moves to the construction phase.
Councillors meeting Tuesday night passed the official plan amendment and zone change necessary for the company to acquire 15 acres of land from the abutting Forwell gravel pit. But lingering concerns about longstanding contamination at the site means officials will ensure nothing is built where pollutants still exist.
Part of the 15-acre parcel has contaminants underneath, a legacy from Breslube Enterprises and other former operations on site. Safety-Kleen has been working for years to clean up the pollutants based on a remediation action plan approved in 2002 by the Ministry of the Environment, which urged the company to purchase the property.
Part of the added parcel would be used as a home for a new warehouse that will store finished goods, mostly one-litre plastic containers of oil. Space on the site will also be used by the company’s truck fleet. That would remove the need for a small lot in Breslau’s core – the company has already stopped using oil storage tanks at that location, with the intention of moving those uses onto the existing Safety-Kleen lands.
The move would reduce the amount of truck traffic in the village core, explained John Scarfone, Woolwich’s manager of planning. As well, operations in Cambridge and Hamilton would be consolidated at the main plant, further reducing the number of trucks on the road.
From a planning perspective, the changes have merits above and beyond the remediation of the site, he added.
“I think it’s the right move, a good move for the community. To me, it’s the proper way to go,” said Coun. Murray Martin in support of the changes.
While fine with the planning side, council remains concerned with the environmental issues, with Coun. Mark Bauman looking for more assurances some now-decommissioned lagoons have been properly remediated. The company says yes, but those claims were countered by environmental activist Al Marshall, who spoke at length about the threat to groundwater and the nearby Grand River.
Marshall maintained the company and the MOE have downplayed the risks posed by pollutants sitting in the shallow aquifer below the site for some 30 years. The plume of hydrocarbons may be stationary, but dissolved contaminants are getting into the groundwater, and making their way to the river, he said.
He called on the township to find an independent consultant to do a hydrogeological review of the site.
An estimated 10,000 to 20,000 gallons of hydrocarbon contaminants made their way into the shallow aquifer. The company’s pump-and-treat operation has recovered 2,000-3,000 gallons so far, said Dale MacIntyre, vice-president for Canadian refinery operations, noting there has been more progress in the last 12 to 16 months than in the previous decade.
Remediation is expected to take many more years. “It’s probably in excess of 20 years.”
While approving the zone changes, councillors are expecting to hear more information when the issue returns for formal ratification at Monday’s council meeting.
“Have those lagoons been cleaned up? I need that answer,” said Bauman.
He pressed Scarfone to ensure soil testing and other environmental monitoring would be done prior to the issuance of any building permits.