Fed up with foot-dragging on the part of Ministry of the Environment, Woolwich wants quick action to tackle contamination on the Chemtura site in Elmira.
The province has for years failed to do anything about polluted soil and water around the chemical plant, with toxins registering hundreds and even thousands of times higher than maximum risk levels, says the Chemtura Public Advisory Committee (CPAC).
On Tuesday night, the group got the backing of a council resolution calling for a comprehensive analysis of the site’s pollutants within 60 days, with an action plan formulated within the following three months of the investigation.
“The message needs to be sent to the MoE that CPAC is not pleased with the lack of expeditious action,” said Coun. Mark Bauman, council’s representative on the committee. “CPAC wants action, not talk.”
Citing “alarming” figures from a survey of hotspots on the site, CPAC chair Dan Holt told councillors the committee wants to see “real, significant action” now.
A pair of simple overlays of a map of the Chemtura property highlights some of the longstanding concerns. Concentrations of DDT and metabolites, which pose a human health risk above 142 parts per billion (ppb) are present adjacent to the Canagagigue Creek in amounts ranging from 1,000 ppb to 73,000.
“All of these spots are well above the 142 ppb,” Holt noted of the potential risks. For dioxins and furans, a risk at 36.6 parts per trillion (ppt), the concentrations found at sample locations range from 36.2 to almost 61,000 ppt.
“The time for action has come,” he argued.
Councillors readily endorsed the call for the MoE to do more, dismissing last-minute appeals from Chemtura and the ministry, received by email Tuesday afternoon, to postpone a decision on CPAC’s resolution. The company and the ministry asked for more time to review the latest reports and the documents submitted to council.
Both Holt and Bauman argued the issues are nothing new, with the councillor noting the motion was appropriate for the lame-duck council to approve, and suggesting the resolution be brought back to the next term of council as well.
Alan Marshall, a member of CPAC’s SWAT (Soil, Water, Air and Technology) team, was equally dismissive of the requests for postponement.
“These are longstanding issues at CPAC,” argued the long-time environmental advocate. “All of these issues have been discussed for months to years.”
One of the most contaminated sites, the former gravel pit known as GP1, has been a topic for more than three years, said Marshall.
In 2012, CPAC objected to Chemtura’s plans for GP1 and GP2, calling for the complete removal of all contaminants rather than simply covering over the former pits. Chemtura instead opted to spend $2 million hauling off some 1,200 cubic metres of contaminated soil from GP1 and installing a heavy plastic barrier over it and neighbouring GP2.
By leaving the contaminants in place, the company risks seeing dioxins and DDT one day being washed into the nearby Canagagigue Creek and the Grand River system, CPAC argued.
The work on that part of the Chemtura property is not related to the company’s ongoing attempts to clean up contaminated groundwater underneath Elmira.
Chemtura has been using a pump-and-treat process to remove a pair of toxins – NDMA (nitrosodimethylamine) and chlorobenzene – from the former drinking water aquifers underneath Elmira. Discovery in 1989 of the carcinogenic NDMA precipitated the water crisis in Elmira, leading to the construction of a pipeline from Waterloo, which supplies the town with water to this day.
An MOE control order sets out the company’s responsibility for dealing with the contaminants in the municipal aquifers, with a deadline of 2028.
This week’s council resolution addresses the wider concerns on the site. Specifically, it requests:
– That the MoECC (Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change) produce within 60 days a comprehensive analytical investigative plan (CAIP) to adequately and in a professionally competent manner characterize the surficial soils, sediments and shallow groundwater on and off-property along and beyond the eastern and southern Chemtura property boundary including, but not limited to, sediments in the Canagagigue Creek and any significant drainage ditches leading off-property;
– That the MoECC provide to CPAC, within 90 days of their acceptance of the CAIP, an implementation plan to complete the CAIP;
– Notwithstanding items 1 and 2 above, the implementation of the CAIP must be completed and reported to CPAC on or before December 31, 2015; and
– Chemtura/MoECC shall provide suitable funding to allow for third party technical review of the above described testing and reporting activities, the activities and terms of which are to be directed by the chair of CPAC, with the support and assistance of Township of Woolwich staff as required.