ROSS HOWEY, For the Independent
Chemtura is a company that has not had the most positive history with the town of Elmira. Historical practices that led to the contamination of Elmira's groundwater have not done much to endear them to the town's residents.
Chemtura, in an attempt to improve this relationship, held an open house this past weekend so that members of the community could get to know the company and what they do.
The event was held not inside the plant itself, but in a tent in the parking lot, as entrance into the plant is regulated and restricted, although there were bus tours through the plant and a walking tour of the water remediation building. The tour was somewhat limited in its scope, as parts of the facility were completely off limits to non-employees for fear of injury.
The water remediation building was the most interesting as the guided tour was very informative on the many levels of filtration and cleansing that the contaminated groundwater goes through on its journey into Canagagigue creek, at which point the water exceeds Ministry of Environment drinking water standards. The facility utilizes special bacteria to remove ammonia from the water, which then goes through large activated carbon filters to help remove other contaminants. The equipment can clean more than 1 million gallons of water every day as part of Chemtura’s mandate to clean up the contamination.
Jozef Olejarz, the plant manager at Chemtura in Elmira, was on hand at tent out front and answering questions. He sees the event as opening up the company for questions from the community as well as connecting with the people of Elmira and not so much about rebranding.
Olejarz said that those who attended seemed to be impressed by the transparency of the company and their operations. He explained that a website is being planned for community members to share their thoughts and concerns in regards to Chemtura which will further help the community and the company communicate. Many of the 150 people attending the event were family members of employees who were otherwise unable to visit the factory due to safety concerns.
As part of its safety program Chemtura has their own volunteer fire department on premises with 18 volunteer firefighters who are employed in other areas of the facility. They are ready at a moment's notice to respond to any hazardous spills or emergencies inside the factory.
Chemtura’s open house allowed the community to catch a glimpse into an otherwise closed off and secretive facility. The tour, although limited in its scope, gave a look at the groundwater remediation facilities that Chemtura has put together to help clean up the contaminated groundwater beneath Elmira.