Toxic bar­rels destined for Sar­nia waste site

Cleanup fi­nally un­der­way at 350 Wentworth St. N. un­der watch of min­istry

The Hamilton Spectator - - LOCAL - NATALIE PADDON

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.

PHO­TOS BY JOHN RENNISON, THE HAMIL­TON SPEC­TA­TOR

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.

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