Gail Martin, Independent Editor
Woolwich councillors have unanimously endorsed a resolution from the Chemtura Public Advisory Committee that questions Chemtura’s ability to clean up Elmira’s contaminated groundwater by 2028.
This is in spite of a presentation from Chemtura plant manager Jozef Olejarz, at the May 8 council meeting.
Olejarz told councillors that Chemtura was committed to meeting the 2028 deadline.
“Our number-one goal is to affirm Chemtura’s commitment to remediate the municipal aquifer by 2028,” said Olejarz. “We are sure we are going to get there.”
Olejarz outlined the successes of the pump-and-treat system, which he referred to as the best available means of dealing with the contaminated groundwater — “there’s nothing better on the market.”
He noted that since the system has been in operation, the area of the NDMA and chlorobenzene contamination has been reduced significantly, as has the overall concentration of these contaminants.
Olejarz admitted the system has had some difficulties, including most of 2011 and 2012, in which the extraction wells have not pumped at their ideal rate.
However, he noted that Chemtura is actively working on a solution, and “we have no reason to believe we won’t meet this date.”
His arguments were countered by delegations of several members of CPAC, who indicated that while they believe the pump-and-treat method is having some success, it might not be enough.
David Marks, a hydrogeologist who serves on the volunteer advisory body, told councillors that numerous studies by the Environmental Protection Agency are raising concerns about the long-term effectiveness of the pump-and-treat method.
“Personally, I hope (the remediation) happens,” said Marks. “Personally, I have my doubts.”
The committee is pushing for Chemtura to remove source contaminants on its site, to aid the work that is being done by the pump-and-treat system. They are also seeking the establishment of a trust fund by the Ministry of the Environment, in case the cleanup should not be complete by the provincially imposed deadline.
When it came time to vote on the motion, which had previously been passed at last week’s committee-of-the-whole meeting, councillors again unanimously endorsed the CPAC resolution.
Councillor Mark Bauman, who has just started serving on CPAC, said that he felt the motion was a prudent course for Woolwich Township.
“It’s always nice when you don’t have to go to plan B,” said Bauman. “But it’s necessary to have a plan B available.”