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Tuesday, June 2, 2020
Connecting Our Communities

New hand on tiller to navigate Elmira’s groundwater morass

With the retirement of Dick Jackson, Tiffany Svensson takes over as chair of Woolwich’s Technical Advisory Group

Woolwich Township’s inaugural chair of the Technical Advisory Group has passed on his torch after retiring from the position as of Dec. 31.

Tiffany Svensson will replace Dick Jackson to head up the citizen body tasked with reviewing technical advice regarding the remediation process with Chemtura. TAG and the Remediation Advisory Committee replaced the Chemtura Public Advisory Committee in 2015. RAC reports to council and includes the Ministry of Environment and Climate Control and Chemtura.

Jackson says he originally took on the chair role out of a sense he owed it to the community.

“I really love this place. Ten years ago we returned from the States, we lived in Texas and Colorado and we chose to return and I have no regrets about returning,” Jackson said.

It also helped the Heidelberg resident has 40 years of hydrogeology experience to understand the complexity of the chemical spill issue. He says last summer he decided it was time to retire.

He’s proud of what the group has been able to do in a relatively short time period.

“I helped reset the agenda and allow the township to see the complexity of the problem because this was part of the issue that had been before that it had no expertise available to it. Everybody was a volunteer and this caused some friction between the activists and some of the community members,” Jackson said.

He says reducing the antagonism between the people who have been working on the contamination problem for 30 years and those who are new to the issue was crucial. He says the groundwater contamination won’t be easily solved, but substantial progress can be made in cleaning up the contamination in the Canagagigue Creek through selected removals that would improve the quality of the creek’s sediment substantially.

“The groundwater contamination I think is going to be an ongoing problem for 10, 20 years – I don’t know. I think it’s most unlikely and that’s the term I’ve used consistently in the past six months, most unlikely we’ll meet the 2028 deadline, but we’ll continue to make good progress,” Jackson said.

He believes the problem with the groundwater contamination is that it wasn’t until 1998 before the pump-and-treat regimen began, long after the chemical spill happened, which allowed the problem to worsen.

He’s also proud that during his time as chair they convinced Chemtura to retain the services of Neil Thomson, a distinguished expert in groundwater remediation from the University of Waterloo who will tell them what they need to hear, not what they want to hear, according to Jackson.

Tiffany Svensson is a hydrogeologist at BluMetric Environmental Inc. in Kitchener.She’s scheduled to be the chair until 2018 and then six months beyond the municipal election that year. She says she has an interest in the protection and management of groundwater resources and particularly in the Region of Waterloo.

She’s been following along with the contamination issue in Woolwich since the 1980s.

“I would have been very familiar with the early stages of when this started back in 1989 because it really did rock the hydrogeology community, certainly at the University of Waterloo, where I was working at the time because it was right here in our own backyard. There’s always been that bit of interest there just because it’s right here in Waterloo Region,” Svensson said.

Her professional experience has primarily been focused on the management and protection of groundwater resources. Over the past 20 years she’s worked closely with a variety of stakeholders whowere interested in the management and protection of groundwater resources in Ontario.

She says she wants to help move the process forward in her new role and build on what her predecessor and the group have done the past year, by accomplishing the goals set out in the 2016 work plan created by TAG.

“My effort so far has been looking at historical reports, getting up to speed where the various issues are at and I’m working on meeting and getting to know each of the TAG members and wanting to build a strong team to help with the work that lies ahead to carry out the work plan,” Svensson said.

The work plan includes ongoing review of Chemtura and MOECC reports and dealing with three areas; the Canagagigue Creek, off-site municipal aquifers and the onsite contamination.

TAG meets monthly except for this month because a suitable date could not be found. The next TAG meeting will be Feb. 2.

“I’m looking forward to hopefully making a positive contribution and really empowering the committee members who have worked really hard in their volunteer capacities to really make a difference and contribute. I want to be there to facilitate that and really make sure that the community feels that their interests are covered off well,” Svensson said.

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