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Former waste pits source of contention at CPAC

Gail Martin, Independent Editor

Members of the Chemtura Public Advisory Committee were not impressed with the Ministry of Environment at the May 31 meeting.

In particular, they were disappointed with the MOE’s response to Chemtura’s proposed solution for former waste pits on its property, known as GP1 and GP2.

In a letter to Chemtura, Steve Martindale, Regional Project Engineer with the MOE, indicated that while “it is evident that removal of all contamination would be the least risky, and most preferable long-term solution,” the MOE would find the removal of waste of GP1 and capping of GP2 “acceptable.”

Martindale, in his presentation to CPAC members, responded to concerns raised at a previous meeting, namely of the potential for the contaminated soil, loaded with dioxins, furans and DDT, to move off site, should an earthquake or 100-year flood occur.

Martindale suggested that in a 100-year flood, the waste from Chemtura might be the least of Elmira’s worries, with the sewage treatment plant also likely to be under water.

He pointed out that since the contaminated soil is found entirely on Chemtura’s property, the MOE has no jurisdiction over what Chemtura ultimately decides.

However, he noted that Chemtura might want to opt to remove the contaminated soil entirely, as environmental regulations always become “more onerous, not less onerous.”

Committee members, however, continue to push for removal of the contaminated soil.

“I’m disappointed with this response,” said Sebastien Siebel-Achenbach. He said that the risk assessment outlined by the MOE in its letter to Chemtura “underestimates the true potential risk. The best option would be full source removal.”

Alan Marshall agreed, saying that the south-east corner of the Chemtura site is not hydraulically contained, and that there has been evidence of the same chemicals from GP1 and GP2 migrating off the site.

“The exact same dioxins from GP1 and GP2 were found in the floodplain, five miles offsite, down the Canagagigue.”

This was disputed by Jeff Merriman, with Chemtura, who said that the biomonitoring studies that have been conducted every two years show declining dioxins, furans and DDTs.

“Let the data speak for itself,” said Merriman.

Former CPAC chairman Pat McLean, who now serves on the APT-Chemtura committee, however, raised similar concerns.

McLean said that while the biomonitoring studies may indicate lower dioxins, furans and DDTs near the Chemtura property, “we have no idea what’s going on downstream.”

A 1995 study indicated the presence of these chemicals downstream from Chemtura, said McLean, but that has not been followed up.

McLean said the Ministry has “failed to address the lack of test pits on the southern border (of Chemtura),” and there is no good way of knowing whether contaminants are already leaching out of GP1 and GP2 downstream.

As well, McLean said that APT’s concerns about a 100-year flood are still valid — and suggested that contaminants leaking from GP1 and GP2 would be far more troubling than any spill from the sewage treatment plant.

“If you spill dioxins into the local environment, it doesn’t break down, it doesn’t go away.”

Dan Holt, chairman of CPAC, asked Martindale whether the MOE has any plans to test for dioxins and DDT south of Chemtura.

Martindale said there are no current plans, but he would suggest it as a future project.

He plans on bringing it up with the new acting director for his division, once that person is appointed.

Merriman noted that the company has tested in the vicinity of GP1 and GP2, and there is “no evidence of leaching in that area.”

Merriman said the company believes the contamination found south of Chemtura stems from creek bank erosion — which was addressed in previous work projects.

The company has yet to make its decision on what it will do with the former waste pits, as it was waiting for feedback from all parties.

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