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Township backs CPAC call for more action on cleanup

Worried groundwater decontamination efforts are moving too slowly, the township wants an Elmira chemical company to do more. It’s also calling on the provincial government to step up to help protect the Woolwich’s interests.
To that end, council this week passed a resolution requesting the Ministry of the Environment press Chemtura to remove contaminated source material in order to meet the 2028 timeline for remediation of the aquifers under Elmira. The township also wants the province to review the funding formula outlined in a 1991 agreement between the MOE and Chemtura.

In that agreement, the province outlines some financial contributions to the cleanup effort, including paying one-third of the cost of the collection and treatment system, to a maximum of $3.9 million and covering half the annual operating costs of the treatment system, to a maximum of $1.2 million. The township wants the township to review the funding formula and to make money available to the Chemtura Public Advisory Committee (CPAC) to pay for studies, consultants, legal advice and other experts.

It also wants the province to establish a trust fund that would continue to pay for groundwater cleanup if Chemtura fails to meet the 2028 deadline.

“Currently there is no penalty for missing the deadline. We want to assure those still working toward this cleanup in 16 years from now that they will have resources for the process, and to give a little more incentive to Chemtura to actually clean up the contaminants by removing them,” Dr. Dan Holt, the new chair of CPAC, told councillors Tuesday night.

Based on the work of Dr. Gail Krantzberg, a professor of civil engineering at McMaster University in Hamilton and groundwater expert, CPAC wants Chemtura to remove contaminants from the soil rather than simply continuing to pump and treat the groundwater.

A lack of oversight of the project and no penalties for missing the cleanup date are good reasons for a review, said Holt.

“We feel strongly that this had produced a situation where there is no real oversight regarding the cleanup of contamination of Elmira’s drinking water. Neither one of the two parties involved in this agreement holds the other responsible and therefore there is no real authority to enforce the control orders governing this cleanup process.”

Coun. Mark Bauman, council’s new representative on CPAC, said the issue extends well beyond Elmira’s aquifers, which are no longer in use, with drinking water piped in from Waterloo. Digging up the contaminants removes the threat of toxins making their way into the nearby Canagagigue Creek, then the Grand River and, ultimately, Lake Erie and the Great Lakes basin.

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