Controversy about Chemtura's attempts to achieve Responsible Care verification turned into a lengthy back-and-forth between members of the Chemtura Public Advisory Committee and Chemtura officials on Monday night.
At the meeting, CPAC members were given an overview of the Responsible Care program by Bob Masterson, vice-president of Responsible Care for the Chemistry Association of Canada.
Masterson highlighted the strengths of the program, which he called the "gold standard" of the chemical industry. As a member of the Responsible Care program, Chemtura has to annually commit to an ethic that supports "doing the right thing, and be seen to do the right thing."
After it achieves verification the first time, a chemical company is permitted to use the Responsible Care logo, even while it goes through the reverification process, held once every three years. Through this process, a verification team, comprising industry experts, community members "at large," as well as local members of the community, meets with the company to determine whether it is meeting the expectations of the program — covered by 152 different criteria.
A company either receives a "complete" or "incomplete" finding, and continues through the process until it is complete.
Masterson said it is a fairly rigourous process, with one in five companies receiving an "incomplete" finding through the verification process.
CPAC chairman Dan Holt is a member of the current verification team, which met with Chemtura early in December.
Holt got in hot water with Chemtura officials after he revealed the results of the meeting at a presentation to Woolwich councillors on Dec. 11, saying the company had failed in its verification bid.
The following week, company representatives Josef Olejarz and Dwight Este made a presentation at council, objecting to Holt's so-called breach of confidentiality.
It was clear that both sides were still smarting from this disagreement, which again erupted during the Monday night CPAC meeting.
CPAC member Vivienne Delaney accused Chemtura of "trying to undermine the CPAC chairman" in its presentation to council.
This was echoed by local environmentalist Alan Marshall, who said that he was "shocked" by the Chemtura presentation at the December council meeting.
CPAC chairman Dan Holt also defended his position, stating that he had understood the December meeting was the final meeting for the verification team, and that meant it was okay to reveal the results of the verification process.
"We reached a milestone and informed the company," said Holt. "That's exactly what happened on Dec. 4. We did reach a milestone, we did say what we decided, that verification could not go forward at this point, because while you have a plan in place, there hasn't been time to implement that plan, and that was very clearly communicated to the company. And it was my understanding that that was the final thing, because we left the company at that point, not knowing any follow up was required.
"That, as I knew, was the final decision, so that was what I communicated as a committee member to council," said Holt.
That, apparently was not the case, as Masterson explained that it is typical for verification results to not be revealed until the company has received a final report.
"Unfortunately, that was not communicated," said Holt.
"It does point to something we have to clarify as to public communication," said Masterson, who emphasized that it would not include any requirement for team members to sign confidentiality agreements.
CPAC members also raised concerns about the selection of former CPAC member Pat McLean as part of the verification team. McLean sits on the team as a community member, representing the APT-Chemtura Committee.
Several questions were raised on how the committee is selected, in an apparent attempt to suggest McLean was a sympathetic choice selected by Chemtura.
Community member Rich Clausi, who also sits on a CPAC subcommittee, questioned McLean's appointment.
"Is there a protocol that allows the company, then, to sit on the team?" asked Clausi. "Was Pat a proxy to the company, or was she sitting as an independent?"
Chemtura representative Dwight Este explained that the company opted to seek two community members from Elmira for the verification team, given that the process started in 2010, when the new CPAC was forming.
In the same way they approached CPAC to select a representative, said Este, they asked APT to select a representative.
"We could have gone with just APT, or we could have gone with just CPAC," said Este. "We felt there was some carryover from the previous CPAC, that would lend credence to the new CPAC, which hadn't even met yet. I'm not sure why, but it's obvious that people think that Pat was going to rubber-stamp (the verification), but that hasn't happened." Clausi objected to Este's comments, suggesting that it was troubling that Chemtura would consider only having representatives from APT on its verification team.
Este emphasized that the company did not consider that as an option, and reminded Clausi that "CPAC does not have an exclusive right" to represent the community on matters pertaining to Chemtura.