New evidence suggesting contaminants on an Elmira chemical plant are worse than first identified should compel the province to issue more cleanup orders for the site, says a community watchdog group.
The Chemtura Public Advisory Committee wants Woolwich council to press for more action from the Ministry of the Environment, arguing a new study shows pollutants are leaching from the site into the Canagagigue Creek.
In a presentation to councillors Tuesday night, CPAC member Graham Chevreau said the new data suggest the province should revisit deals with the chemical producer that date back almost 25 years.
The Chemtura site is subject to an MoE control order to remediate polluted groundwater under the terms of a 1991 agreement and follow-up settlement deal in 1993 between the ministry and what was then Uniroyal Chemical.
“The agreement also bound the Ministry of the Environment not to issue any further control orders to the Company for remedial work ‘unless new evidence of the nature or extent or both of the contamination is revealed,’” he said.
“CPAC contends that the nature and extent of the Chemtura site contamination is significantly worse than the situation defined at the time of the agreement.”
A study done for CPAC this summer shows very high DDT levels in sediment downstream from the plant, as well as dioxins and furans not mentioned in the agreement.
“The nature and extent of the contamination from the Chemtura site compels the Ministry of the Environment to issue new control orders to Chemtura,” said Chevreau in his presentation.
Under the terms of the settlement between the MoE and what was then Uniroyal Chemical, the province is to pay half of the annual cost of operating the treatment system, up to $1.2 million, adjusted for inflation.
Chevreau estimated the deal has cost Ontario taxpayers $36.5 million to date.
Taxpayers have spent all that money, “yet still have a hazardous waste site that leaks into the creek.”
CPAC asked council to include a call for new cleanup orders in a letter to be sent to the ministry. While expressing support for the idea, council opted to refer the matter to the new environmental committee the township formed when it opted to disband CPAC to entice the MoE and Chemtura back to the meeting table. CPAC’s term ends August 31. Two new committees with less public participation will take its place, the Remediation Advisory Committee (RAC), which will be the CPAC’s direct substitute, and a Technical Advisory Group (TAG).
Coun. Mark Bauman pushed for the matter to be referred to TAG for further study before taking any action.
“I don’t want to jump to assumptions,” he said, noting that CPAC’s study does strongly suggest there are more problems. “The evidence that they have is compelling.”
For Coun. Patrick Merlihan, it’s important to keep pressure on the ministry to do more about the contaminants that first precipitated a drinking water crisis in Elmira in 1989.
“This has been dragging on for 25 years. We do want answers for our citizens on this.”