The Woolwich Observer

As CPAC winds down, longstandi­ng concerns remain

More studies needed to find scope of new contaminan­ts, confirm that 2028 deadline will be missed, group tells council


NEW TESTING HAVING SHOWN elevated levels of contaminan­ts downstream from Chemtura plant in Elmira, local officials are not only concerned that toxins are leaching offsite but are again questionin­g whether the chemical producer can meet the 2028 deadline for cleaning the town’s aquifer.

While the company has for years maintained it could meet the timeline, it has recently acknowledg­ed current remediatio­n efforts – pumping water from the aquifer underneath Elmira and treating it for contaminan­ts – aren’t likely to succeed on their own.

That’s long been the position of the Chemtura Public Advisory Committee, the environmen­tal watchdog group whose term expires at the end of the month, to be replaced by a more company-friendly arrangemen­t cooked up by Mayor Sandy Shantz. Both the current township council and its predecesso­r, however, have also expressed doubts about the deadline date.

Addressing council for the final time last week, CPAC members encouraged the township to keep pressing both Chemtura and the Ministry of the Environmen­t for action on the pollutants on and near the site.

Ron Campbell, a CPAC member whose business is remediatio­n of contaminat­ed properties, said the pace of progress since cleanup began two decades ago indicates there is little chance it will be done in another 13 years. “It’s a monumental task.” 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. More than two decades past the start of the crisis, CPAC is worried the timeline won’t be met, calling for provincial interventi­on. It wants the company to remove contaminat­ed source material rather than simply treating the groundwate­r.

A CPAC-commission­ed study that found elevated levels of DDT in the Canagagigu­e Creek downstream of the chemical plant – 20 to 2,900 times higher than the applicable Ontario Maximum Allowable Concentrat­ion standards – is an indication pollutants are migrating offsite, said Graham Chevreau, a CPAC member and a profession­al chemist who drafted the report tabled earlier this month. He called for a comprehens­ive study of the problem areas, something far more extensive than has been done to date, pointing to a site at Pine River in St. Louis, Michigan, home to a 52acre parcel once occupied by the Michigan Chemical Corporatio­n, and later Velsicol Chemical Company, where the contaminat­ion issues were much the same.

“You can’t design a solution until you define the problem,” he said, noting the company and the ministry have been reluctant to do so.

Pointing out that the province’s own guide to eating sports fish warns about fish caught downstream of Chemtura, he said that speaks volumes compared to the MoE’s stance in Elmira.

“That is a pretty good indication that something is going on.”

For its part, Chemtura maintains the situation is not as grave as CPAC paints it to be.

“Chemtura has been aware of the issue of downstream contaminat­ion with DDT and dioxins for many years. Our approach has been to first investigat­e and understand the sources of these contaminan­ts, and then remediate any source areas that were found. In the mid 1990s, we determined conclusive­ly that these contaminan­ts are not transporte­d by groundwate­r due to their hydrophobi­c properties, but rather by erosion of on-site contaminat­ed soils with deposition as sediment further downstream in the creek environmen­t. CPAC seems to have completely missed this point,” Jeff Merriman, Chemtura’s manager of environmen­tal remediatio­n, said in a written statement to councillor­s.

“We do not believe, however, that the lack of evidence so far means that we shouldn’t investigat­e further. In fact, Chemtura has prepared an “East Side Surficial Soil and Groundwate­r Investigat­ion Work Plan” to examine the possibilit­y that contaminan­ts in the soil or shallow water on the eastern or southern boundaries of our property could be impacting creek sediments at the present time. We are confident that with the informatio­n gained from this sampling project, a definitive, data-driven statement can be made on this topic. If ongoing contaminat­ion is found to be moving into the creek environmen­t, Chemtura will address the matter appropriat­ely.”

 ?? [FILE PHOTO] ?? Even as Woolwich council replaces CPAC with a new format, concerns remain about toxins on and offsite at the Chemtura plant in Elmira.
[FILE PHOTO] Even as Woolwich council replaces CPAC with a new format, concerns remain about toxins on and offsite at the Chemtura plant in Elmira.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada