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Safety-Kleen expansion gets final approval

Construction of a new warehouse at the Safety-Kleen plant in Breslau will go ahead under the watchful eye of Woolwich council. Not close enough, however, for an environmental activist who worries the township was too agreeable in approving an official plan amendment Monday night.

Given the go-ahead at last week’s committee-of-the-whole meeting, the expansion plan received formal backing when company representatives were able to address questions raised Mar. 23, particularly assurances the new building would not sit on contaminated soil.

The decision allows the refinery to acquire 15 acres of land from the neighbouring gravel pit. A warehouse building will be built on part of the site, with the portion contaminated by oil to be treated in accordance with a remediation plan adopted in 2002 by the Ministry of the Environment, which encouraged the company to take ownership of the land.

The new warehouse will be built away from the underground plume of pollutants, said Sam Head of the Kitchener planning firm Smith, Dryden and Head.

Some 10,000 to 20,000 gallons of oil-based contaminants sit in the shallow aquifer under the site, dating back to the 1960s and ’70s. Safety-Kleen has been pumping out the sludge and treating the waste, recovering about 2,000 to 3,000 gallons to date.

The plume is contained to the southwest part of the property, once home to five storage lagoons. The body known as lagoon A is the source of the known problem and the subject of the remedial action plan, explained Safety-Kleen vice-president Dale MacIntyre.

While the lagoons had been closed, there is no documentation about how and when they were treated, he said in response to council inquiries.

“The documents outlining the degree of closure are just not available.”

Those lagoons, four on Safety-Kleen property and the fifth on the neighbouring gravel pit site, are bones of contention for environmental activist Al Marshall. He challenged the company’s claims that problems with the lagoons have been addressed.

“Lagoons A, B and C are side by side, only a few metres apart. Lagoon E is just north, and lagoon D is directly below it, in the westerly direction, actually situated on the Forwell Sand and Gravel property for the last forty years,” Marshall explained. “With these lagoons located so close to each other, it seems unlikely, if not ridiculous, that some would be excavated and others not.”

A 2002 hydrogeological report, the most recenty study, shows lagoon A has a half-metre to two metres of oil floating on the shallow aquifer.

In agreeing to allow Safety-Kleen to proceed, council took the unusual step of asking to review the site plan before construction takes place; typically, approval rests with staff.

“I want to ensure that nothing hinders future clean-up at the site,” said Coun. Sandy Shantz.

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