An Elmira industrial site, once home to a notorious chemical company, faces more than a few hurdles before the current owner can develop the property. One of them was cleared May 19 when Elmira Pump hosted a public meeting to unveil the findings of an environmental assessment.
Contaminated badly during its time as the home base for Varnicolor Chemical, the land at 84 Howard Ave. has been remediated over the years such that toxin levels are low enough to permit new development, says a consultant for Elmira Pump.
“The findings were that, although the site used to be quite contaminated, the contamination has been mostly removed, and it is just trace concentrations that are remaining on site, and that is the focus of the risk assessment,” said Keith Metzger, an engineer with Peritus Environmental Consultants. “The findings in the risk assessment is that there aren’t any risks associated with what is left. The risks are very negligible.”
The assessment was ordered by the Ministry of the Environment, with the findings unveiled at the meeting in Woolwich council chambers along with tentative plans for a commercial condominium development.
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Metzger said the meeting went well. He was able to present the environmental study findings, showing that the previously contaminated land didn’t have any lingering contaminants in the soil. However, the upper municipal aquifer still had a number of contaminates that are above drinking water standards.
There are still a few more steps that Elmira Pump needs to take.
“The next step is to basically discuss the findings with Chemtura and their consultant and also the Ministry of the Environment,” said Metzger, of the chemical company that owns land adjacent to the 84 Howard Ave. lot.
The site was the topic of controversy in the 1990s. Varnicolor Recycling and Disposal owned the property until 1993. The company’s president, Severin Argenton, was found to have been illegally storing solvents that had deeply contaminated the land. He was given an eight-month jail sentence on Sept. 8, 1992. At the time, it was the longest jail sentence for an environmental crime in Canada.
Woolwich chief administrative officer David Brenneman, who attended the meeting, said the public presentation was part of the process Elmira Pump has to go through. The content of the presentation was valuable to those in attendance, but also those hosting the meeting, he added.
“I think it was a good public meeting in the sense that it provided good information for the public to be aware of with respect to what sort of work and monitoring was being done on the site, what potentially are Elmira Pump’s plans to redevelop the site to bring it back on as a useable site,” he said. “It was also beneficial in the way of a public meeting because again, as part of the risk assessment process that they are going through, they certainly seemed to be listening and obtaining that good feedback of things that they might want to take a look at. So, as far as a public meeting goes, it is important to share the information, but it was also important for them to listen to the feedback from the people in the audience that would have knowledge, not just of the site, but also related to the ongoing efforts overall in terms of the groundwater and aquifer cleanup.”
The full report will be available for the public to review in the coming months.