Toxic barrels destined for Sarnia waste site
Cleanup finally underway at 350 Wentworth St. N. under watch of ministry
Work is underway to remove 800 barrels of toxic waste once concealed behind a wall in an empty industrial building at 350 Wentworth St. N.
The cleanup, which is being conducted by Hamilton-based First Response Environmental, is expected to take as long as three weeks and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Mitchell Gibbs, who’s leading the cleanup team, said workers will be equipped with protective equipment when they transport the barrels and large totes to Sarnia for disposal at a hazardous waste site.
“We’ve been retained by the owner to remediate and take away the danger from this property.”
Under the direction of the Ministry of the Environment, the company analyzed the material and found it to include coal tar, creosote, industrial solvents and roof tar, Gibbs said.
“The danger is that they’re carcinogens … and the risk of fire is certainly prevalent.”
A ministry spokesperson said the coal tar and solvent materials are consistent with the history of the site, which was once home to an asphalt and roof tar plant.
“The cleanup means there is now a significantly reduced risk to the environment and surrounding community,” Gary Wheeler emailed Tuesday.
Orders for the site — which require the removal of waste and an environmental impact assessment and plan — will remain in place until the process is finished, he said.
Building owner Sukhi Sandhu says the cleanup will cost $650,000.
The Brampton resident, who held the first mortgage on the property until he bought it last fall, bemoaned the fact that he has to spend so much. Sandhu said he had to remortgage his home to pay for the work, even though he wasn’t responsible for the barrels.
Once the property is cleaned up, he hopes to be able to rent or sell it.
“Money-wise, I’m really upset; but on the other hand, let’s see if I can get my money back.”
Ministry and city officials have tried for years to get previous owners to properly dispose of the hazardous materials inside and outside the building.
The outside cleanup was completed when the owners at the time raised a $1-million pool. The previously undetected barrels, which were discovered inside a few years ago when a past owner started to demolish a wall, remained a problem.
While all of the hazardous materials above ground will be removed over the coming weeks, what is happening below ground is unclear, Gibbs said.
“There’s certainly no doubt in my mind that the ground is contaminated,” but subsurface testing — including drilling and analyzing the samples — would have to be done to confirm that, he added.
Sandhu said he hopes to start that process next month.
Gibbs said he’s pleased to see work underway to make the site safe.
“I’ve been cleaning this property up for in excess of 22 years now, under various different owners, because they all either ran out of money or ran out of interest,” he said. “The current one seems to be seeing it through.”
Plans are also underway to clean up another Hamilton site where there is industrial waste.
Barrels are expected to be removed from 249 Hess St. N. — another vacant former asphalt plant — starting Feb. 23.
Colton Breber, top, looks into a plastic drum of coal tar at 350 Wentworth St. N. He works for First Response Environmental and is part of the large cleanup of more than 800 toxic barrels at the site.