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Partial removal of contaminated soil on Chemtura property provokes CPAC chairman

Gail Martin, Independent Editor

Plans to excavate and cap former waste pits on Chemtura’s property are meeting with opposition from Elmira’s Chemtura Public Advisory Committee.

Dan Holt, chairman of CPAC, told the Independent that the committee is “very disappointed” in Chemtura’s decision to remove a portion, but not all, of the contaminated soil in GP1 and GP2.

“This is, quite literally, a cover up,” said Holt.

The issue has been a bone of contention at previous CPAC meetings, with committee members pushing for the complete removal of the soil, which is contaminated with dioxins, furans and DDT.

This position also received support from the Ministry of the Environment, when representative Steve Martindale told CPAC members that complete removal of the soil would be the ministry’s preferred option. However, Martindale also indicated that removal of some of the contaminated soil from GP1 and capping of both GP1 and GP2 would be “acceptable.”

That is the option that Chemtura has selected, much to the dismay of CPAC.

Chemtura is opting to remove 1200 cubic metres of contaminated soil from GP1, and capping the remaining soil, as a means of preventing the contamination from moving off site.

Plant manager Jozef Olejarz said that the decision was based on a combination of expert advice and input from both CPAC and the MOE.

Olejarz said that while simply capping the soil would be an acceptable option, the chemical plant chose to do more, “based on the feedback.”

“Obviously, there are many opinions,” said Olejarz, “but we have to base our opinion on expertise, and that is what we have done.

“We are going way beyond what is necessary, and that is our answer.”

The work is voluntary on the part of Chemtura, as it is not part of the control order that requires the chemical company to clean up Elmira’s contaminated groundwater. Dioxins, furans and DDT are chemicals that tend to cling to soil particles, and do not dissolve easily in water, so Chemtura contends that the contamination is not migrating off site.

Holt, however, indicated that he would like to see some testing of the water upstream in the Canagagigue, to determine whether or not this contention is true.

And, noted Holt, “ it will be very different now in drought times, versus in times with flooding.”

He added that it is disingenuous on the part of Chemtura to claim that the decision is based on community feedback. He noted that both CPAC members and representatives from the MOE expressed their preference that all of the contaminated soil be removed.

“It’s just not right to say this is as a result of listening to the community,” said Holt.

He indicated that CPAC could be issuing a press release on the issue sometime soon.

While specifications on the work are still being determined, the chemical company hopes to begin removal of the soil this October and completing the capping of the soil by the end of this year.

The contaminated soil will be removed to a secure landfill outside of the Elmira area, although the final destination is still to be determined.

The entire project is estimated to cost the company $2 million.

CPAC will hold its monthly meeting this Thursday (tonight) in Woolwich Township council chambers, at 6 p.m. Members of the public are welcome to attend.

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