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Making progress

Elmira Independent editorial

It was heartening to see the results of a computer modeling study conducted by Conestoga Rovers & Associates, on behalf of Chemtura.

The consulting firm presented a report at last week’s Chemtura Public Advisory Committee that, among other things, recommends vastly increased pumping and treatment rates for Elmira’s contaminated groundwater, and the use of in-situ (in-place) remediation.

It’s an aggressive plan, designed to provide assurances to the community that it may well be possible to clean up Elmira’s contaminated groundwater by 2028, the deadline imposed by the Ministry of the Environment.

The plan, however, was met with quite a bit of skepticism on the part of CPAC members, which really comes as no surprise.

That’s because it’s taken a long time to come to this point, a point where it seems the chemical company is willing to treat Elmira’s contaminated aquifer with the proper level of seriousness. Historical relations between Chemtura and the community have not always been good, and the skepticism, in part, reflects that.

The skepticism also comes from some very valid concerns, not the least of which is whether Chemtura will actually be able to pump the contaminated groundwater out of the ground at the rates proposed in the new remediation plan.

In the past, Chemtura has had difficulty reaching its pumping targets. This has been the combination of restrictions that came when ammonia — a contaminant not associated with Chemtura’s historical practices — was also found in the groundwater. Until Chemtura was able to get its ammonia treatment system (ATS) up and running — and solve its dispute with neighbour Yara, which assumed some responsibility for the contamination — the company was limited in the amount of contaminated groundwater it could pump and treat, particularly during the summer.

If that wasn’t enough, recent problems with the biological components of the ATS also contributed to the less-than-stellar pumping rates.

That, along with the recent dry spell during the summer months, makes it easy to understand why concerns are being raised about the ability of Chemtura to pump and treat groundwater at these increased rates.

CRA noted that further testing will need to be done to see if the recommended pumping rates are even feasible, and has proposed to conduct this testing as soon as approvals are granted by the MOE.

However, the plan for increased pumping, combined with the recommendation to use in-situ remediation — the planting of chemicals in the groundwater, to promote chemical reactions that lead to benign byproducts — shows a promising willingness to try new things, and to work harder than ever before to clean up Elmira’s groundwater.

Surely that can’t help but be a good thing.

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