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Opposition to Chemtura’s excavation and capping plan continues

Gail Martin, Independent Editor

Reaction to Chemtura’s plan to partially excavate and cap former waste pits on its site continues to be negative.

At the July 26 Chemtura Public Advisory Committee, plant manager Jozef Olejarz faced criticism from a variety of fronts for the plant’s decision.

Olejarz faced the most criticism, however, not for the decision, but for a press release issued in his name that claimed the decision considered the feedback provided by the community.

The press release announcing the decision was released on July 17. The release read, in part, “Chemtura selected this specific remediation option as it best incorporates the communities’ input, remediation expert advice and Ministry of Environment guidance.”

CPAC member Ron Campbell said that the decision did not reflect the wishes of the advisory committee.

“What I’ve heard as CPAC member, is the committee weren’t supporting a one-foot scraping of the contaminated soil, and capping the rest. That’s not what I heard at these meetings.”

Olejarz said that while CPAC was pushing for a greater level of excavation, other members of the community had expressed concerns about transporting the contaminated soil, which is laced with dioxins, furans and DDT.

Susan Bryant, with APT Environment, noted that her group had raised the concern about transportation of the waste, but had pushed for a full entombment of the contaminated soil, rather than partial excavation and capping.

“I just want to make it clear that we are not supporting a minimal kind of excavation that you are proposing here,” said Bryant.

Bill Bardswick, director of the Hamilton regional office of the Ministry of the Environment, also weighed in on the debate. Bardswick told CPAC members that while the MOE “accepted” Chemtura’s approach, it is not their preferred option.

“Clearly, the best decision from an environmental standpoint is to get rid of it all. I don’t think anyone can dispute that,” said Bardswick. “Clearly, there would have been a huge opportunity, from my standpoint, to get a lot of goodwill here at CPAC if they did get rid of it.”

Bardswick reminded CPAC members that the MOE has no legal authority to require Chemtura to remove the contaminated soil, or to require a cleanup. That would only be required if there were proof the contaminated soil was moving offsite, or if the chemical plant wanted to pursue a record of site condition.

CPAC chairman Dan Holt noted that the “feedback” Chemtura was receiving seemed unanimous against their proposal.

Olejarz noted that Chemtura had not said it had complete support for its option, just that it had taken the feedback into consideration. Olejarz noted that the decision to excavate part of GP1 and cap the two gravel pits was more extensive than Chemtura’s original preferred option, which would have simply capped the two pits.

“In the end, it was our decision,” said Olejarz.

Chemtura’s plan for the former waste pits will cost $2 to $3 million. Olejarz estimated that a full excavation of the contaminated soil would cost five times that figure, or $10 to $15 million.

At the CPAC meeting, Bardswick also committed to looking at conducting a further investigation of creekbanks along the Canagagigue, downstream of the Chemtura site.

The last investigation took place in 1995, when DDT, dioxins and furans were found in soil samples downstream of Chemtura.

Since then, Chemtura has completed several creekbank stabilization projects, in an attempt to stop erosion of contaminated soil downstream, but there has been no follow-up testing of the affected areas.

Bardswick said that he felt a further study was long overdue, but it still needs to be determined whether the MOE will conduct the work, or whether Chemtura will be involved.

On July 31, CPAC issued a press release confirming its opposition to the plan.

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