6.9 C
Tuesday, April 7, 2020
Connecting Our Communities

20-year-old agreement causes a stir


Sketches of our town

Slowing down and taking in our surroundings – the proverbial stopping to smell the roses – is...

News Briefs

Woolwich nixes traffic islands Displeased with the troublesome pedestrian islands installed during the Region of Waterloo’s reconstruction of Church Street...

Region sees first COVID-19 fatality

There were 117 cases of the novel coronavirus in Waterloo Region as of Wednesday morning, the most...

Avoid all non-essential public gatherings, health officials advise

There is no safe number when it comes to public gatherings, says the region’s acting medical officer...


broken clouds
6.9 ° C
9.4 °
3.9 °
52 %
75 %
16 °
14 °
9 °
5 °
2 °

An Elmira environmentalist’s “smoking gun” appears to be shooting blanks. Al Marshall, a long-time critic of cleanup efforts at the Uniroyal (now Chemtura) chemical plant, says he recently became aware of a 1991 document he claims lets the company off the hook for contaminating the town’s drinking water. But both the company and the Ministry of the Environment say Chemtura is responsible for remediating the soil and groundwater. As evidence, they point to the millions of dollars spent doing just that over the past two decades – that would not be the case if the company had been given a get-out-of-jail-free card.

On Tuesday night, however, Marshall called on Woolwich council to take action against Chemtura and the MOE. “You (council) at the moment have the moral high ground, as I believe that you do not share blame for this betrayal of the public. Some appropriate and significant action, including expressing your condemnation of the reprehensible behaviour of these other two parties, is required,” he said in his address.

Mayor Todd Cowan, who heads the Chemtura Public Advisory Committee, acknowledged that the document was new to the CPAC members, who would need time to figure out how it fit into the thousands of documents that have accumulated since Elmira’s drinking water crisis emerged more than two decades ago.

Cowan said Marshall’s comments would be discussed at the next CPAC meeting later this month, calling it a more appropriate venue. “There’s a time and a place, and this is not the time or the place,” he told Marshall, assuring him the matter will be addressed. “We’re looking at it quite seriously.”

At issue is a document dated Oct. 7, 1991, part of the settlement agreement between what was then Uniroyal Chemical Ltd. and the provincial government over contaminants found in the aquifers under Elmira. Portions of the document, identified as “schedule H to the settlement agreement” contain language that appears to release the company from liability, particularly section 16 (releases) that begins with “Subject to paragraphs 15.1 and 16.3, the province does hereby remise, release and forever discharge Uniroyal, its officers, directors, shareholders and associated companies … from all actions, causes of action, damages, claims, and demands whatsoever of which both Uniroyal and the province are presently aware …”

But the MOE, pointing to similar agreements in cases like the one involving Chemtura, says the document follows a common procedure when cleanup control orders are issued. In essence, it sets a legal framework under which the cleanup is implemented. It stemmed from the legal action taken by Uniroyal following the first control order issued by the ministry, becoming part of the amended control order.

Taken in isolation, and cherry-picking certain paragraphs, the agreement can be made to support the opinions expressed by Marshall, said Steve Martindale, regional project engineer with the MOE who has spent years on the Chemtura file, including acting as the ministry’s representative on CPAC.

Not a sweetheart deal, “this agreement was the real start of the cleanup at Chemtura,” he explained. “Does it exonerate Uniroyal from its cleanup? No. They’re required to follow up the work plan laid out in the agreement.”
At Chemtura, the cleanup has been an ongoing project, rather than something the company got a free pass on, noted Dwight Este, the plant’s environment, health safety and security manager.

“This is a standard agreement outlining how things are going to be played out or addressed,” he said, noting the company has been following that plan. The company continues to pump and treat groundwater, as well as tackling soil remediation work. Next up in that vein is work along the banks of the Canagagigue Creek, which the company hopes to complete this year. Both Martindale and Este noted that the document has been public since it was drafted. In fact, the MOE issued a press release that same day – Oct. 7, 1991 – about the cleanup agreement. “The ministry thought it was a very positive thing,” said Martindale.


  1. Steve: It’s 22 pages long. Reread it, especially pg. 15. It is a blanket financial and legal Indemnity for all known contamination as of October 1991. This is why the M.O.E. and Chemtura have refused to remove DNAPLS under the west side ponds. Those they’ve known about since then. The Dioxins on the east side they only discovered in 2002 and they claim they will remove those. P.S. CPAC not I discovered this document. Mayor Cowan & bud are stickhandling around them and keeping them in the dark. The s*** is going to hit the fan.

Comments are closed.

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to The Observer's online community. Pseudonyms are not permitted. By submitting a comment, you accept that The Observer has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner The Observer chooses. Please note that The Observer does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our submission guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.


Sketches of our town

Slowing down and taking in our surroundings – the proverbial stopping to smell the roses – is oft discussed but seldom acted on. The measures put in place to slow the coronavirus...

In Print. Online. In Pictures. In Depth.

You obviously love community journalism. Thanks for visiting today. If you have a great local story, let us know.

Woolwich approves waiving late fees in response to pandemic

Measures such as waiving late-payment charges, adopted last week by Woolwich council, may be just the first steps as the township deals...
- Advertisement -