No stranger to environmental testing, an Elmira property known as Lot 91 was the scene this week of another Ministry of the Environment inspection to determine if contaminants are spreading.
Provincial officer and water resource technician Brian Thorburn was on site Tuesday for a routine check of groundwater beneath the property at the eastern end of Oriole Parkway.
The testing was a routine confirmation of last year’s analysis of the area, explained MOE district supervisor Amy Shaw.
Lot 91 drew national headlines in the late-1980s when a former employee of Varnicolor Chemical blew the whistle on the company’s illegal dumping of hazardous wastes. The buried material, which had the potential to cause serious health problems, was removed in 1994. Two years prior, Varnicolor owner Savarin Argenton was sentenced to eight months in prison for breaking environmental laws.
Following excavation of the waste, hydrogeological studies of the property conducted by the MOE found varying concentrations of hydrocarbons, petroleum and methane, as well as various other chemicals. Methane levels at the time indicated the property was unfit to house a structure, but additional remediation work was deemed unnecessary. Inspections continue, however.
“A soil vapor and groundwater study was conducted by a consultant on behalf of the MOE in 1996. The conclusions indicated that impacted groundwater was not moving off site and that the contaminants would naturally attenuate within the site boundaries. A follow-up round of sampling was completed by the MOE in May 2011 to confirm the 1996 conclusions. The July 2012 sampling that began yesterday at Lot 91 is a scheduled follow up to confirm the May 2011 results,” she explained in an email message Wednesday.
The ministry began remediation measures on the property in 1991 with the removal of waste and contaminated soil from the site. Routine checks on chemical levels in the groundwater have been conducted ever since, with each of the results indicating lower levels of contaminants. Shaw said that findings have shown the contamination to remain contained within the property, causing no harm to surrounding business. Structures such as the newly-constructed Elmira Scout shed located steps away from the property are not affected by the toxic residues in the property and groundwater below.