Elevated methane levels at former Elmira landfill don’t extend to nearby residents

Woolwich circulates information of its own after environmental activist pens letter to homeowners on George and High streets

A Woolwich handout identifies the scope of the former landfill site and monitoring efforts.
A Woolwich handout identifies the scope of the former landfill site and monitoring efforts.

Warnings about methane levels around Bolender Park, circulated last month by an Elmira resident, are unfounded, Woolwich officials maintain.

Elevated levels of methane at the former municipal landfill site don’t extend to homes on nearby George and High streets, says director of engineering and planning Dan Kennaley.

“But if people do have any concerns, we are quite willing to do some monitoring in their homes.”

A letter discussing past testing practices and results was delivered to residents by environmental activist Alan Marshall. On Tuesday night, he urged Woolwich councillors to look into the issue and provide methane warning devices to homeowners near the site.

Marshall argued past monitoring data has been filled with gaps and erroneous readings due to malfunctioning probes, adding past instances of elevated methane levels and a consultant’s recommendation for monitoring at a High Street home were never acted on.

“If either Woolwich Township or the Ministry of the Environment have any other Bolender landfill gas probe test results that they haven’t released publicly, then it’s way past time to do so,” said Marshall. “Secondly, at the very least you need to buy and install methane warning devices for the High Street, Charles Street and George Street residents, as well as for Elmira Pet Products.”

Kennaley, however, dismissed the concerns, noting data from newer probes have shown methane is not an issue for residents of that neighbourhood.

“That would be unnecessary,” he said of the warning devices.

Instead, elevated levels have been found near on the property that now houses around 86 Auto and Metal Recyclers at 39 Arthur St. N.

The methane is being produced by the former municipal landfill site, which operated between 1962 and 1970 and covers an area that encompasses swaths of the wrecking yard and the park up to the top of High Street.

“Based on our analysis of the information available, we are pretty confident there are no methane issues affecting the residents of George and High streets,” said Kennaley.

At the auto recycling yard, the township is looking at digging some trenches to help dissipate the methane. Its waiting on an analysis for the Ministry of the Environment (MOE) before moving forward. The situation is complicated, however, due to the presence of other contaminants, particularly hydrocarbons, due to the site’s longtime use as a salvage yard and garage, he noted.

“We acknowledge that the municipality has a responsibility for the methane. But there are volatile organic compounds (VOCs), also called hydrocarbons … and those emanate from the 86 Auto operation.”

The cost for cleaning up contaminants beyond the methane shouldn’t be borne by Woolwich taxpayers alone, said Kennaley, adding that complication makes MOE input even more important.

“We’re not sure what their stance is going to be with regards to the VOCs,” he said of the ministry.

In the meantime, the township is hoping to run another series of tests, but the current elevated groundwater levels in the area mean that will have to wait until September or October, Kennaley said.

Also in the works is a timeline and historical review of the site and the actions taken there, chief administrative officer David Brenneman told councillors, noting that past concerns were in some cases superseded by newer test results over the past three decades of monitoring.

While the township circulated a letter of its own to residents, it has yet to hear any feedback from homeowners or have anyone take up their offer to monitor indoor air quality, said Kennaley.


  1. Firstly my apology for doubling up on the above comment. I didn’t fully follow the fact that “Comment awaiting moderation ” meant that it could be a few hours awaiting moderation hence I redid my comment 2 hours later thinking that the first one didn’t get through.
    Secondly kudos to the Woolwich Observer for accepting my criticism and publishing it whether or not they agreed with it. In a community newspaper that is a huge attribute and worthy of all our respect.

  2. In fact the studies by Conestoga Rovers (10 of them) do not back the township’s position as stated in the Observer’s Editorial today. In fact they show methane levels well in excess of the criteria of 20% LEL (Lower Explosive Limit) twice in both 2008 and 2010 at the east end of the Bolender landfill, nearest High St.. Further this methane, again contrary to the Editorial, is not contained anywhere on the site much less at the west end nearest the auto wrecking yard.

  3. Overall O.K. reporting however some errors. The Editorial “…microscope on methane issue” states that “the problem is largely contained to what is now 86 Auto and Metal Recyclers”. That is false. No part of the problem is contained and the methane is throughout the perimeter of the landfill. Also the Editorial states that the Township’s position is backed by studies. That is also false. If the Observer read the studies (10 of them) as I have or if they had interviewed me they wouldn’t make these errors. The Township are in full blown coverup mode.

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