New wells to accelerate cleanup of Elmira aquifer
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New wells to accelerate cleanup of Elmira aquifer

Hoping to speed up the process, chemical producer Chemtura Canada plans to install new wells in its treatment system removing contaminants from the groundwater under Elmira.

Meeting Tuesday night, Woolwich councillors agreed to a pair of new extraction wells and associated monitoring wells and boreholes on township property. The company says the wells will help  it meet the 2028 deadline set by the Ministry of the Environment for completing the cleanup process.

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 the town. 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. Having started in 1998, the process is now about halfway through the 30-year timeline, said Jeff Merriman, Chemtura’s manager of environmental remediation. A 2012 study determined additional pumping was required to meet the 2028 timeline.

Noting the new pumping volumes would be two or three times higher than today’s, Coun. Mark Bauman said the Chemtura Public Advisory Committee has concerns about the impact on the aquifer and the Canagagigue Creek, where the water is discharged.

Merriman explained pumping volumes will be determined by the capacity of the aquifer. As for discharge, the process ensures “non-detectable quantities” of contaminants, with water in the creek downstream cleaner than the water upstream from the site.

Dan Kennaley, the township’s director of engineering and planning, said the process of choosing locations for the new wells included public consultations and efforts to minimize any impacts. One of the extraction wells, which will require pump-house buildings, is near a residential neighbourhood on an unopened road allowance on the east end of South Street. The other approved site is in an industrial area on Oriole Parkway, west of Union Street. A third such well proposed for Pintail Drive met with strong opposition from residents, so it will be a monitoring location instead.

The monitoring wells and boreholes are innocuous, he added. There are scores of those around town.

in approving the plan, Bauman said, “The intent is heading in the right direction to remediate the water in the aquifer.”

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