This Blog will discuss politics, government, corruption, police, S.I.U., courts, education, min. of attorney general, min. of labour, v.o.i.c.e. and other current and past events of interest to concerned citizens. In the "About me" section to the right and down I have included the names of persons whom I have tremendous respect for. Their influence on me however has been primarily environmental (and personal) and this is therefore a disclaimer that all words posted on this Blog/Website are mine and I alone am responsible for them. I say this with the greatest respect and affection to my friends.
Friday, September 27, 2019
ELMIRA WATER WOES: THE TRIUMPH OF CORRUPTION, DECEIT, AND CITIZEN BETRAYAL
TABLE OF CONTENTS
60 ....Engineered Wetlands and Other Equally Poor Ideas
61 ....Site Specific Risk Assessment
66 ....July 2003 Request For Action
66....We Lose Esther Thur
66....Crompton Bad news Intermingled With Good News
Engineered Wetlands and Other Equally Poor Ideas
You know, when I look at the ongoing illogical, unreasonable, and just plain weak ideas floated at CPAC meetings by Uniroyal/ Crompton, and Conestoga Rovers (CRA) it just makes me wonder first how incompetent Crompton and their consultants are and second exactly how naive they think CPAC members are. Yes, others have made poor decisions not in the public interest as well. APT joining UPAC was a poor decision. APT agreeing not to reconvene the EAB after the “sweetheart” deal and bilateral shutdown of the EAB in 1991 was a bad decision. APT accepting the MOE December 10, 1993 DNAPL Report was beyond dumb. Then, consider the major offenders. The chlorine cloud was dangerous. The pool of LNAPL discovered in 1995 was and is outrageous. The Upper Aquifer Containment and Treatment System proposed plan was handled poorly and may, in fact, condemn both Uniroyal and the MOE to eventual charges. Uniroyal’s proposed permanent entombment of the Envirodome wastes was incredibly unrealistic. The final solution of reburying the Envirodome wastes in Corunna, Ontario was short sighted. The taking of three years by Uniroyal to control their air emissions was beyond asinine. Uniroyal’s sixteen month walkout of UPAC/CPAC was idiotic. Various spills including NDMA, chlorine, the “pink” spill, etc. were unacceptable. Optimization and then the “discovery” of Nutrite’s contribution to ammonia in the groundwater were the epitome of corruption and collusion. The “phantom mound” or groundwater high on the Nutrite property exemplified junk science at its worst. It was all just too much.
Could it be possible that certain involved members of the public threw up their hands in surrender? Did they, long before I, realize the futility? Did they finally say “I’d rather go along to get along than keep on fighting these ignoramuses? Did they decide to play both sides of the fence? Did they think that by making some deals not in the public interest that Uniroyal/Crompton might be more likely to throw a few environmental benefits their way? Was this the trickledown theory of benefits applied to the environment rather than to the economy? Just a series of stupid, self-serving ideas, one after the other.
CRA personnel decided that they could build wetlands at the south end of the Crompton site for the purpose of breaking down the ammonia in the groundwater. Reporters Julie Sawyer of the Independent and Joanne Peach of the Observer reported in their newspapers on this matter on January 24 and 25, 2003, respectively. Adam Loney of CRA suggested that it would take one year for the pilot system and two years for the whole treatment system to be up and running. Minor problems such as the cattails and other plants not being as effective in the winter months did not seem to deter CRA. Discussion on this plan continued through the spring of 2003. Golder Associates Ltd., an engineering consulting firm hired by CRA, also presented to CPAC regarding these proposed man-made wetlands to naturally remove ammonia. Nutrite management still claimed that they weren’t the source of the ammonia in the groundwater and that it could be coming from closed landfills. Hmm, closed landfills were notorious for methane production but I’m not aware that they could also produce ammonia. The two closest landfills of course were the Bolender Landfill, just north of Church Street, and the M2 landfill on Crompton’s south west corner.
Site Specific Risk Assessment
It’s 2002 and CPAC members were inundated yet again with different problems and issues simultaneously. This demand really was astounding for a volunteer group meeting but once a month. All these issues were documented in glorious detail and specificity by CRA representatives. Discussion was also ongoing in relation to risk assessments. The Record on February 25, 2003 published a story regarding the findings of the highly criticized Human Health Risk Assessment (HHRA) and the Environmental Risk Assessment (ERA) authored by CRA. The public was advised that there were slightly higher risks of getting cancer for employees and trespassers at the Uniroyal/Crompton site.105 At the time, I was not aware that trespassers likely meant teens and children smoking and hanging out underneath the Church Street bridge over the Canagagigue Creek. According to a local resident, they still do so. My heart goes out to Uniroyal and Crompton employees, past and present, as I suspect that they and their families have paid a health price for steady employment. The ERA concluded that the only increased risks were for earthworms, rodents, and shrews. Really? Supposedly there were no increased risks for their predators such as small birds, hawks, owls, foxes, coyotes, etc.in the food chain. Hardly credible when one understands that the two chemicals of concern (COC) both bio-accumulate as they move up the food chain.
Julie Sawyer in the Elmira Independent of February 28, 2003 discussed the HHRA . Other chemicals such as lindane, dieldrin and benzo (a) pyrene were allegedly not a health hazard according to Peter Hicks, senior environmental engineer project manager, of CRA. The other significant finding by the authors was that the east side held the largest risks for humans and wildlife.106 Well, that’s interesting in regards to the testing done between 2015 and 2017 of soil and groundwater on and beside the Stroh farm on Crompton’s east side of its property.
Dr. Henry Regier was disgusted with the statements coming from both Crompton and the MOE in regards to a Site Specific Risk Assessments (SSRA). He wrote a lengthy treatise on the subject on September 14, 2004, titled “How Risk Assessment May Cripple A Precautionary Principle”. I have included Dr. Regier’s complete text regarding SSRAs, less what he referred to as a preceding, long section on Complicated Algorithmic Constructs. The following text from Henry is sub-titled
“SSRA AS APPLIED TO A CONTAMINATED SITE IN ELMIRA, ON”
“Starting in 1943, an American company’s chemical plant in Elmira has caused intense contamination of the air, soil and water of Elmira and surroundings. This company’s name changed over the decades from Naugatuck to Uniroyal Chemical to Crompton. Some of the worst contamination locally resulted from production of chemicals for military use in WWII and in the American War in Vietnam. The Canadian government facilitated, and perhaps coerced, the company to manufacture such war material. With respect to the American war in Vietnam, dioxin-contaminated wastes from the production of the contaminated ingredients of Agent Orange were dumped in leaky pits on the company’s site from where the contaminants migrated off-site through flow of aquifer, ground and surface waters. The struggle to hold the company accountable for environmental abuse has exhibited some of the problems that one would expect from a foreign branch plant of a company located in its own company town (Elmira) and not strongly committed to environmental stewardship.
Though Elmira had sufficient environmental degradation to be listed formally as an Area of Concern under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement of 1978 and 1987, it was left off the list. Every other contaminated hotspot in the Grand River Basin was also left off that list. It may be that the network of engineers, which is operationally if not formally in charge of water related issues in this Basin, found the whole issue of contaminants to be a distraction from more important concerns such as flooding, sewage treatment and provision of potable water from sources other than Elmira’s contaminated aquifers.
In what follows here, my focus is on a particular gross feature of environmental degradation due to Crompton’s chemical production in Elmira. In 1966-7, the sediments in Canagagigue Creek, that flows through the Crompton site, were found to be severely contaminated with hazardous wastes from the production of 2,4-D and 2,4,5-T for use in Agent Orange by the US Army in Vietnam plus wastes from the production of other pesticides such as DDT and from the use of Lindane[Sic] in other pesticide formulations. The Ontario Ministry of the Environment, MOE, demanded that the company undertake remediative action with respect to the creek’s sediments, and the company did so, incrementally and slowly. By the late 1990s, the company in effect sought operational closure on the issue of how much clean-up of creek sediments was necessary and negotiated an investigative process with MOE to provide appropriate information for such a decision. MOE offered several alternative investigative approaches (see below), and the company chose to proceed with Site Specific Risk Assessment, SSRA. Five years later -following many noisy interactions on this general theme in the monthly forum of the Crompton Public Advisory Committee, CPAC -the company is now (May, 2004) preparing its version of a final report of that SSRA.
Throughout this five–year period, several volunteer members of CPAC presented documentation and reasoned argument concerning the numerous shortcomings of an SSRA approach, and specifically about the particular version of SSRA that was used by Crompton in Elmira. MOE and the company ignored or stonewalled most of CPAC’s input; when one or the other did respond, rhetoric of dubious relevance was offered. MOE’s position amounted to an assertion that it had the legal responsibility to act and it had made its decision to proceed with SSRA as chosen by the company. Whether or not CPAC concurred with MOE’s decision, apparently it was sufficient for MOE’s purposes that the issue of the SSRA was raised at CPAC in an informational sense if not in a consultative sense. Nevertheless, I continued my efforts for “Professional engagement” with MOE officials on this theme, as follows.
In response to my continuing harassment, MOE’s Regional Director arranged that I connect with MOE’s experts on SSRA in Toronto. In due course, on 20 04 04 I met with members of that group of SSRA Experts at 40 St. Clair Avenue West, Toronto.
I had been trying to understand the SSRA empirically as a Complicated Algorithmic Construct or CAC (as sketched above) that has come to play a role in decision-making with respect to contaminated sites in Ontario. My empiric study had a number of emphases:
1. The political/policy role of SSRA as a particular example of a CAC as related to alternative informational modalities that could have been selected in a particular case;
2. The rationale for the chosen “scientific” content of MOE’s SSRA and related criteria of acceptable levels of pollution of various kinds;
3. The operational role of SSRA within MOE and related criteria of procedural acceptability; and
4. How the above three have come together in the particular context of Crompton’s SSRA focused on the contamination of the Canagagigue Creek and its environs.
In harassing MOE officials I had been trying to understand how they, as individual professionals and as an agency of several interrelated units, relate to the whole set of my four emphases. After several interactions with MOE staff in the spring of 2004, my working hypothesis was that no one at MOE currently has effective competence in any but the third of these four empsases. Discussion more or less relevant to my hypothesis follows below.
The SSRA experts, who met me on 20 04 04, were friendly, communicative and professional in a good sense-all of them, I judge. The primary focus of our informal meeting was on the political/ policy/strategic context in Ontario in which SSRA was one of a number of kinds of available tactics. Some of our discussion related to the other three emphases, in passing. We chose not to focus our attention specifically on Crompton’s current use of a SSRA.
For our discussions I had downloaded MOE’s Guideline for Use at Contaminated Sites in Ontario from http://www.ene.gov.on.ca/envision/land/decomm/background.htm. The current guideline is a revision of previous guidelines with the first version dated 1989. So a lot of experience has gone into the current practice for “assessing the environmental condition of a property…determining whether or not restoration is required and …determining the kind of restoration needed to allow continued use or reuse of the site.” I sense that this sort of work was constrained under the Harris administration in 1994-2003, perhaps only indirectly through budget cuts. Unfortunately there is no documentation that summarizes all of this experience and what has been learnt from it. The SSRA experts were considering producing such a document.
I found the Guideline that I had downloaded confusing. The SSRA experts admitted that I had reason to be confused and provided the additional information to clarify or correct parts of it for me. For example, three “approaches to site restoration” are specified: background approach; generic approach; and SSRA approach. My understanding now is that, in practice, an “owner of a contaminated site” has the freedom to choose the approach that the owner prefers. Reasons for a preference need not be specified to MOE or for the record.
MOE’s experts seemed to share a view that an owner usually chooses the alternative that seems to be least costly for the owner. With respect to a particular site, a start may be made with a cheap version of a background approach; with some 80% or so cases, a project does not proceed to another approach. If a serious problem is implied by using the background approach, then an owner may proceed to the moderately costly generic approach, perhaps with a hope that this approach will come to a different conclusion and find that the problem is not serious after all. If the generic approach also implies a serious problem, then a more costly SSRA may be undertaken. The outcome of an SSRA may again be that the problem isn’t severe enough to warrant major restoration, or may imply minimal actions necessary to undertake the restoration to meet the relevant criteria. In the worst case, from the viewpoint of an owner of polluted property who is trying to contain costs, all three approaches imply major remediative efforts.
Though MOE’s experts didn’t say so, I expect I suspect that of the three the costly SSRA approach may provide the best opportunity for creativity on the part of an owner seeking to demonstrate little risk and thus to contain remediative costs. Such creativity can presumably operate all the steps in an SSRA approach, but MOE does not allocate its accountability responsibilities evenly across all the steps. Balanced accountability may be the responsibility of a MOE Regional Office. For a particular case, a Regional Office may delegate part of the accountability responsibilities to a unit in head office, as with respect to critical review of the myriad details in a Draft SSRA, say. The SSRA Experts with whom I met have this latter responsibility, and I sensed that they have technical expertise and exercise due diligence with respect to what is expected of them, at least with the help of particularly expert private consultants to make up for some internal gaps in expertise. Perhaps the SSRA Experts provide more rigour than may be expected or even welcomed by a Regional Office, at least sometimes. There may be a tacit hope that excess rigour on their part may compensate for insufficient rigour on the part of others in MOE for other components of the overall SSRA; I would take any such hope to be misplaced.
Some of the documentation concerning MOE’s three approaches refers to “steps” or “phases” that include more than one step. I don’t know to what extent such steps or phases are taken as disjunct formalities or as informal guidance. In general, the steps follow an elementary school notion of a “scientific experiment,” i.e. sketch of background and context, objective of study, methods selected and used, variables and observations documented, findings inferred and conclusions recommended. It may be that only the simplest applications of such an approach actually do proceed linearly in practice. In our Elmira SSRA case, some back-and-forth iterations and recursive loops have occurred, noisily, without a clear endpoint yet in sight.
If I understood correctly, “Phase 1” relates to a number of “steps” which include: describing the practical context; setting clear objectives related to a putatively related contaminated site; scoping the formal process for a study in a way relevant to the particular approach chosen (background, generic, SSRA); and tentatively identifying restoration options for possible application down the line in a subsequent implementation “phase.” If this is all of phase 1 then I sense that someone in MOE’s Regional Office must be responsible for working with an owner of a polluted site to get such work done. The interaction between regulator and owner may be informal with no explicit criterion concerning completion of any of those steps, for all I know. In Elmira, CPAC has been provided with little or no information on this aspect of Phase 1 of the Crompton SSRA.
Phase 2 relates to the actual formulation and review of a draft SSRA. MOE has a formal Reviewer’s Checklist for Risk Assessment (Minimum Considerations for Peer Review),
http://www.ene.gov.on.ca/envision/land/decomm/checkra.pdf . The SSRA Experts with whom I met are particularly expert, apparently, on reviewing draft reports produced in Phase 2 according to this checklist.
The checklist contains about 118 questions, some with sub-questions, all arranged under numerous headings. The first seven questions in the Reviewers’ Checklist seem to relate, retrospectively at that stage, to Phase 1 issues. But the SSRA Experts at the Toronto office generally do not take full responsibility for reviewing any documentation related to Phase 1, although there may be exceptional cases when they do so. Concerning their MOE units review of a draft of the Crompton SSRA, in his letter of 30 01 04 to Steve Martindale of the Regional MOE office, co-ordinator Mark Turner (of the SSRA Experts) wrote:
“Comments are based on the assumption that the [draft] SSRA report completely and accurately reflects the site conditions and that all pertinent information is included. We emphasize that while we have considered elements of the site characterization to the extent that they may affect conclusions of the risk assessment, this in no way endorses the validity of the site characterization now or for any purposes that may be made of it in the future. Determining what types of action are necessary to meet the site specific criteria throughout the site and verifying that the criteria have been met remains the sole responsibility of the proponent and their consultant(s). Special caution may be required if the site is redeveloped to a more sensitive use.”
The MOE Regional Office may also contract directly with private consultants to provide a peer review of a draft SSRA report, and then route such private reviews directly to MOE’s Experts before the latter submit their review to the regional MOE office. I don’t know whether there is a formal list of credentials that such a private reviewer must document to get such a contract. Direct knowledge of the site and the context of an SSRA, i.e., Phase 1 issues, are not necessarily expected of such a reviewer, apparently. Rein Jaagumagi has worked both within MOE and as a private reviewer; in conversation he stated that a review of Phase 1 documentation by someone who lacked the site –specific knowledge should not be judged to be credible, or something to that effect.
From interactions with regional MOE staff concerning the Crompton SSRA, I infer that no member currently on staff at the regional office, nor any set of regional staff members together, has an understanding of the local Elmira context sufficient to perform peer review of the Phase 1 documentation. During the past four years, members of CPAC’s Soil and Water Sub-Committee have offered informed criticism concerning numerous issues relevant to Phase 1 that were ignored subsequently in the draft SSRA report. Both Crompton and MOE have been less than grateful for such advice/criticism on every, repeat every, occasion on which such advice criticism was offered, usually not too diplomatically. Of course, all of this informed advice/criticism was offered pro bono by these volunteers as responsible citizens, while the company and Ministry professionals who stonewalled it were banking handsome salaries.
With respect to the current SSRA related to contamination of our Creek, I interpret some of the revisions that MOE specified for the company at a 13 02 04 meeting in Hamilton, as noted in Steve Martindale’s draft minutes dated 17 03 04, to be relevant the contents of the Phase 1. Apparently MOE’s SSRA Experts, and belatedly also the regional MOE officials, considered this Phase 1 aspect of Crompton’s draft SSRA to be particularly weak. In effect, Crompton was told at that February meeting to provide a coherent and intelligent account of the Phase 1 considerations, in a way that was meaningful to a reader not fully informed on the Crompton site and its history. Apparently MOE expects Crompton to do some retrospective patching to correct for important things that had been missed, somehow, in the Phase 1 work undertaken some four or five years earlier. The consequences of any particular patch for a shortcoming in the submitted Phase 1 documentation would presumably ripple through the whole Phase 2 analytical process and might lead to different findings and conclusions. (For example one of these missing things related to the possibility of contaminants leaking out of ground water and/or aquifers from under the company site and into the creek.)
Again, even though MOE’s SSRA Experts spotted some of the gaps in the submitted Phase 1 documentation, nevertheless they issued the disclaimer (in Mark Turner’s letter of 30 01 04, see above) that MOE’s Toronto unit had not undertaken a critical review of all that related to Phase 1. Also, Crompton was reminded that it was responsible for the accuracy of the improved report concerning Phase 1 that it should include in its draft final report. Implicitly MOE didn’t acknowledge responsibility for assuring “soundness” of all that Phase 1 stuff, even in the company’s final report. MOE may be relying on Crompton`s repeatedly stated commitment to the ethics of Responsible Care under the Canadian Chemical Producers Association. (That Association has reviewed the evidence of Crompton`s commitment to the ethics of Responsible Care on three occasions since 1996 and has assigned failing marks on all three occasions.)
At our meeting in Toronto on 20 04 04 (see above), the SSRA Experts were aware of difficulties such as those sketched above. Presumably because of resource shortages, they seldom had an opportunity to visit a site and familiarize themselves to the extent of acquiring personal competence to offer a peer review of a Phase 1 report by an owner. The SSRA Experts did not seem to know to what extent Regional MOE staff were involved in the Phase 1 work of any particular site, including Elmira. Perhaps no formal sign-off by a Regional MOE staff is needed to proceed beyond Phase 1.
Presumably the company is aware of the opportunity for creativity related to Phase 1 activities because of the apparent lack of real involvement by duly informed MOE regional staff with some of those activities.
On a different tack, I was interested in whether MOE’s SSRA Experts were aware of the origins of the SSRA approach in MOE and or antecedents elsewhere. I brought along Russell (1977) which describes how “risk assessment/ risk management” came to be politically acceptable within the USEPA in the 1980s, see above. From there a version of this risk approach infected the Canadian and Ontario environmental agencies. The MOE SSRA Experts made a photocopy of the Russell paper.
On still another tack, I asked what they knew about Krantzberg et al. (2000). One of the SSRA Experts had some familiarity with it. I sketched the notion that the SSRA approach is primarily technocratic while the SEDS approach is more democratic, though a hybrid of the two could be designed with particular cases such as the current Crompton case. Some of the SSRA Experts seemed intrigued. Incidentally, Gail Krantzberg had participated in a CPAC meeting several years ago to present the SEDS option; Bill Bardswick of MOE’s Regional Office subsequently argued that the SSRA approach provided all that the SEDS approach offered and more, which is false.
What happened during my meeting with with MOE’s SSRA Experts in Toronto on 20 04 04 reinforced my sense that our Crompton SSRA has been conducted in a slipshod way, on the whole. Five years ago Crompton seems to have had a working sense of the threats and opportunities for Crompton within SSRA and proceeded doggedly with its version of it. For whatever reason, Regional MOE officials seem not to have exercised due diligence in an informed way, though a belated effort to do so may have been made at the 13 02 04 meeting in Hamilton. Reasonably well-informed criticism /advice from members of CPAC’s Soil and Water Sub-Committee were mostly ignored over the past five years. It seems unlikely to me that the final SSRA report that will be eventually issued by Crompton to MOE’s satisfaction will meet conventional norms of professional ethics. The part for which MOE’s SSRA Experts provided quality control would likely meet such norms, but other parts likely wouldn’t, I fear.
At the end of our meeting on 20 04 04, I was told that the new brownfield strategy related somehow to all the above. See http://220.127.116.11/envregistry/019448er.htm . I haven’t worked my way into that yet.
As a specific Complicated Algorithmic Construct applied to assess the effects of hazardous contaminants in some local environment, the Site Specific Risk Assessment procedure as used with respect to contamination of a creek in Elmira appears to be a rhetorical device related more to the political needs of entrepreneurial polluters than a scientific device for purposes of fair and transparent political discourse and negotiation.
I grant that there might be instances of the application of the SSRA CAC elsewhere that are not all bad, on balance, but I doubt that.
I infer tentatively that the primary role of SSRA, as currently applied in practice, is not to provide information for the purposes of the precautionary principle, but rather to provide information for purposes of greenwashing.
Generally the information that a CAC such as a SSRA yields tends to be cacophonous. (Editor’s note cacophonous-characterized by harsh discord)
Over the past half century, many mentors and colleagues have helped me to understand the rhetoric of particular as well as generic manifestations of a CAC; I thank particularly Douglas Robson and Stephen Bocking. Specifically concerning SSRA and its application in Elmira in recent years, I thank Susan Bryant, Fred Hager, Kal Haniff, Alan Marshall, and Shannon Purves-Smith.”
Congratulations to all the readers of this book who have just cheerfully navigated through Henry’s treatise regarding the version of Site Specific Risk Assessment inflicted upon Elmira and downstream. While I could have simply given you Henry’s “Tentative Conclusions” at the end that would have deprived you of Henry’s far superior understanding to mine of the subject as well as of the lengths that Crompton were willing to go to sell their inadequate cleanup of their site, aided and abetted by the Ontario government via the MOE. Last, that SSRA needs to be understood because the next one is on the horizon, now in 2018. The soon to be SSRA will be in regards to cleaning up the sediments in the Creek and the soils around it. It too will be no more than the usual “greenwashing” by Lanxess Canada, aided and abetted by the Ontario government through the MOE. The MOE are in a conflict of interest position as they have neither the money to clean up the Creek properly nor are they independent from Lanxess Canada influence due to past indemnitys as well as possible future legal action.
The poor ideas just kept on rolling. As the engineered wetlands idea was not held in high regard by CPAC members, that plan was floundering. The Region of Waterloo was also getting impatient with Crompton and CRA’s never ending requests for extensions to the use of the Elmira Sewage Treatment Plant (STP) in order to remove the ammonia. Whether ammonia in the groundwater [both shallow and deep] belonged to Uniroyal or Nutrite, it certainly wasn’t a result of any operations by the Region. The regional Engineering Department basically told Uniroyal to build their own ammonia treatment facility.
The Ontario Ministry of Environment seemed to believe that, as Uniroyal had settled with and purchased the homes of four Duke Street residents, it was time to remove the MOE air monitoring station from Elmira. This plan was discussed at CPAC and reported in the Elmira Independent on March 28, 2003. The Editor’s column on that date also covered the issue under the title of “The MOE is Failing Elmira”. Neither Gail Martin, the Editor, nor many of the CPAC members were happy about the MOE’s decision to remove the air monitoring station which included Susan Bryant, Ron Ormson, Shannon, Pat, Gerry Heidbuurt and myself.
One very good piece of news emerged during these tumultuous times. In July 2003, Crompton once again failed the confidence vote by the Canadian Chemical Producers Association (CCPA). This failure was a good thing although had the process ever been an honest process they would never have attained approval nor maintained it. Gordon Crooks of the CCPA stated that Crompton had yet to fully embrace the true spirit of *Responsible Care. They still haven’t in my opinion. Uniroyal/Crompton had failed in 1997, 2000, 2001, and finally, in 2003. All this looked very bad on Crompton.
Somehow bad news always seemed to roll off Crompton’s back. It was as if Crompton management felt that they, and they alone, would be writing the history some day of this environmental disaster. Down the road they did eventually remove all the local, in- town media criticism. Media in Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario certainly lost interest except for the occasional coverage of items they believed were new or different.
I was surprised to learn that a major issue brought to the forefront by Dr. Richard Jackson in 2016 actually had been discussed, albeit briefly back in 2003. In the Elmira Independent of March 28, 2003, Gail Martin mentioned issues with aquitard penetration by Uniroyal toxic chemicals. Dr. Jackson referred to “back diffusion” from low permeability soils such as clays and silts into adjacent aquifers. Ms. Martin referred to the term diffusion as well. Essentially diffusion meant that as aquifers were slowly cleaned of existing toxic chemicals, there was a further discharge of chemicals into them from the less permeable clay and silt aquitards where, over the decades, the toxic chemicals had accumulated.
July 2003 Request For Action
July 2003 saw the culmination of a major effort by the Soil and Water sub-committee of CPAC. As usual I did the basic research, reading, and first drafts of a brief that was presented to the rest of CPAC. The July 2003, Request For Action listed numerous on-site locations of still buried wastes on the Crompton site. It did not contain all the locations but certainly CPAC believed the most extensive and most serious locations of DNAPLS, LNAPLS, dioxins and more. The sources of my information and data included documents that had been written by consultants for Uniroyal such as Morrison Beatty Limited, Conestoga Rovers & Associates as well as MOE documents and reports, and reports by CH2M HILL on behalf of the Region of Waterloo. A private consulting firm, Terre-Aqua Resource Engineering Inc., had also done a study of the Uniroyal groundwater situation on behalf of the MOE. Its findings were important and held some serious criticism of the work and findings of Morrison Beatty. The history of waste mismanagement at Uniroyal was complex, convoluted, unclear, and disgraceful. I brought these reports to various meetings of the Soil & Water sub-committee whose members included Henry Regier, Fred Hager, Susan Bryant and me. Some of the more controversial findings were questioned and I showed the members the source of my data. There were some minor disagreements between source documents such as the 1991 Environmental Audit produced by CRA and the 1985 MOE, GRCA report titled ”A History of Uniroyal Waste Management.”
Overall it was very difficult for Crompton to dismiss this July 2003 report out of hand after CPAC formally accepted it from the Soil & Water Sub-Committee because the raw data was already publicly available and included considerable work done by many of the long-term parties and agencies involved with Uniroyal Chemical Co. issues. That said, there were errors in some of these old reports. Some errors may very well have been inadvertent whereas others most likely were not. As a result, one or two errors were passed along in the final 2003 CPAC report. I discovered one in particular nearly twelve years later in 2015. It is almost as huge as the likely intentional bypass of liquid toxic wastes from Uniroyal eastwards onto a neighbouring farm. To this day in 2018 while members of the Citizens Public Advisory Committee (CPAC) are aware of the by-pass, members of the general public most likely are not. I have explained it as well as created and shown it on a large map at public meetings but there was very limited news media present. I do believe that the Elmira Independent may have published it simply as my opinion. The facts, however, are solid and a much more detailed description of what I refer to as Interceptor Trenches as well as of the probably intentional misrepresentation of the location of Gravel Pit 1 (GP1) occurs in Chapter Sixteen.
We Lose Esther Thur
Esther Thur outlived her husband Ed by several years. She was involved in fighting Uniroyal/Crompton right to the end. She had had serious health problems, many of which were associated with recurring bouts of cancer. She had very little doubt that the cancer was contributed to by Uniroyal’s air and waste emissions. It was the combination of local food, water and air that she believed had been harmful to both her and her husband. In hindsight, it is appalling to learn that employees of one company, Roxton Furniture, where her husband worked, had been sent home sick due to the air pollution from neighbouring Uniroyal as was mentioned in Chapter One. Esther passed on in August 2003.
Ms. Thur's legacy will be the reports, newspaper articles and technical documents that she faithfully catalogued for the Elmira Library up until her passing. She reviewed very old copies of the Elmira Signet from 1941 to 1980, a local paper, before their employee, Bob Verdun, was fired by the Record allegedly for his harsh criticism of local luminaries in Woolwich Township. Bob and his wife, Carol, started the Elmira Independent in 1974 and basically ran the Signet out of business. For a very long time it was clear that the Record were not fans of Mr. Verdun’s journalism. This collection of Ms. Thur’s was eventually located in the Wilfred Laurier University Archives. The collection is inappropriately and inaccurately referred to now as the APT collection.
Crompton Bad News Intermingled With Good News
The EAB hearing originally scheduled for January 2003 was postponed until November 2003. Nutrite Fertilizers also were the recipients of a civil suit filed by Crompton because Crompton wanted compensation from the second known source for the ammonia clean-up costs.
Recall that the Settlement Agreement of October 7, 1991 specifically stated that Uniroyal was free to attempt to legally obtain financial compensation from any other contributors to the local groundwater contamination. That agreement may be part of the basis now for the MOE’s ongoing harassment and never ending clean-up demands to Elmira Pump Co. Elmira Pump and the public were initially told that ten years of pump and treat would fix the former Varnicolor site, located just down the street from Uniroyal, to an acceptable environmental state. Seems to me that the MOE would rather die than have to make more public admissions regarding their deal-making, corporate collusion, and propensity to lie to the public. Hence, MOE officials would rather not issue public control orders on Elmira Pump. They certainly don’t want to lay charges against them. It is my belief that verbal, likely inaccurate promises, were made to Elmira Pump and that the MOE have reneged on those promises. The MOE have to renege because they are caught between a rock and a hard place.
Uniroyal/Crompton later Chemtura and finally Lanxess in 2017 must know how bad the contamination at Varnicolor was and is. They hired both foremen from Varnicolor after this company closed and had them as employees until the death of Gary Clausing in 2015. The second foremen may still be with Lanxess. As a result, Uniroyal would have intimate knowledge of the various dumping schemes practiced at Varnicolor, whether dumping into the storm sewers, sanitary sewers, or directly into the ground on the former Varnicolor site. Uniroyal would also know the volumes involved as well as the specific chemicals and the stratigraphy of the ground beneath Varnicolor’s Union Street site. Finally Uniroyal have access through their consultants of all the borehole logs of both monitoring and pumping wells throughout Elmira. This information would also include the very interesting stratigraphy immediately below Varnicolor’s former Lot 91 at the extreme eastern end of Oriole Parkway.
Just as Uniroyal went after Nutrite for financial contribution towards the clean-up, I expect that they are going after Elmira Pump for the same. The MOE are likely willing to do almost anything to keep Varnicolor’s extreme pollution contributions out of the public forum. Hence, the MOE may find squeezing Elmira Pump on behalf of Uniroyal is an awful lot easier than fighting Uniroyal, now Lanxess Canada Co. As Uniroyal are on the hook for the entire clean-up of the Elmira Aquifers it only makes sense for them to go after the other contributors. Who knows if they may be getting under- the- table payments from a whole litany of Elmira polluters. The MOE are happy if that information remains confidential. The other sources are happy too if it remains confidential, and lastly, Uniroyal and their successors likely don’t care if it’s confidential or not as long as their clean-up costs are reduced. It’s a win-win-win for everybody including the public if Uniroyal’s 50% of the Elmira Aquifers costs are reduced by contributions from others. Furthermore, knowing Uniroyal and their successors, I expect that they have leveraged their hold over the MOE to the maximum. It certainly explains various behaviours not in the public interest over the decades. This is the huge downside to permitting government agencies to get in bed with corporate law breakers. If you lie down with dogs, you will get fleas. Again this could very well be what Susan Rupert, Esther Thur, and probably Sandra Bray were concerned about when they formed APT, a citizen’s voice and forum. It is unfortunate that those following did not pay more attention.
This is speculation that Uniroyal/Crompton and later Lanxess are keeping the pressure on the MOE to clean up Varnicolor’s deep aquifer contamination. If you consider the MOE’s indifferent attitude to Varnicolor’s deep contamination in the early days and compare that to the lengths they are putting Elmira Pump through for the last eighteen years, it becomes clear at least to me that something has changed. The MOE unilaterally removed the deep investigation from their control order on Varnicolor when Phillips began showing an interest in the property. The MOE would rather have a private company pay for the easier part of the clean-up than they paying for the entire cost themselves. This deep contamination likely includes DNAPLS as the shallow groundwater concentrations of DNAPL chemicals exceeded the 1% solubility rule. Both DNAPLS and LNAPLS were on the old Varnicolor site. Jim Germann of Elmira Pump said it best in response to my comment about extraordinarily high concentrations of solvents on the Varnicolor site. At the public Risk Assessment held in Woolwich Council Chambers in May 2016, I referred to parts per million and he laughed and said more like ounces per gallon. That, in fact, is raw product or solvents floating on the water table under his property.
The decades long, still ongoing cover-up of the extent of Varnicolor Chemical contamination, carried out by the MOE, as well as the collusion with Uniroyal/Lanxess about the matter indicates far more than simple, petty payback to citizens who exposed MOE blatant lying and corruption through the MOE’s intentional mishandling of the Varnicolor file. While some APT members gave the MOE credit for their incompetence, I don’t believe that they were all that stupid. The decades-long hiding of information and facts from the public is to avoid releasing a truth that will harm both them and their governments. More on this matter is forthcoming in future chapters.
In September 2003, the Woolwich Observer published a listing of the various chemicals in fish in the Canagagigue Creek. These chemicals included mercury, pesticides, DDT, dioxins and furans and PCBs.107 They also mentioned the claims from CPAC members that contaminated groundwater was still entering the Creek, from Crompton. This data was likely from the 1995-96 MOE investigation of the Creek.
CPAC learned in February 2004 via the Record that the Crompton air emissions were down to a mere 100,200 kilograms per year. This quantity was reduced by 71% between 1991 and 2002. Ron Ormson of CPAC told Crompton “… this is what your peers have expected from you all along."108 These emissions consisted of toluene, nitrogen oxide, carbon monoxide, ammonia, and hydrogen sulphide among others. Elmira residents had been breathing this toxic brew literally for decades. Of course, no scientific study done in regards to Crompton ever took into consideration that both drinking water standards and air standards were totally independent of each other and did not presume multiple routes of exposure simultaneously.
CPAC were advised on March 24 that Crompton had been hit with a $50 million fine for price fixing of rubber additives. Both the Record and the Observer carried these stories. None of us in Elmira would be shocked by the suggestion that Crompton preferred not to play by the rules in other business matters as well.
The June 11, 2004 explosion and fire at Uniroyal/Crompton in Elmira was one of the more visible, violent, and scary episodes at an Elmira company and location that has lurched from crisis to crisis for decades. All these crises have not just been about their third world waste disposal practices. They have a long and never-ending history of fires, explosions, spills, and fugitive air releases into the community. The Record carried stories on June 12 and 14, 2004 describing the explosion and fire that sent a huge black cloud over Elmira. On that day my brother and I were west of town on our way back from a walk at the Woolwich Dam when we spotted the moving cloud. We actually had to think long and hard about whether or not to come back into town. The Woolwich Observer of June 14, 2004 and the Elmira Independent of June 18, 2004 also carried stories about the crisis. The Record later on suggested that the cause was still somewhat ambiguous. Both the Fire Marshall’s office as well as the Technical Standards and Safety Authority [TSSA] were called in. Susan Bryant was quoted as saying “That plant shouldn’t be there. We’ve known that for a very long time."109
On June 23, 2004 the Record carried the following headline, “Remediation principles get nod from Council.” There was indeed discussion at CPAC in regards to principles and there was a lot of pressure on individual CPAC members to go along with these principles. At the time, I thought the presentation of principles were a substitute for the strongly unpopular “Optimization Plan” put forward by Conestoga Rovers on behalf of Uniroyal/Crompton. In hindsight, I’ve wondered if, in fact, it was a behind –the- scenes bait and switch. In other words, as Crompton already had been served with the June 21, 2000 Amended Control Order, were these Principles used as a pretend authorization or acceptance for the very quiet and contemptible June 2000 Amended Control Order?
On June 11, 2004, Julie Sawyer wrote in the Elmira Independent that an agreement had been reached between Crompton, Nutrite, and the Ontario MOE regarding ammonia concentrations in the municipal drinking water aquifer. Three weeks of Environmental Appeal Board hearings were cancelled after the agreement was reached. Susan Bryant is quoted in this article as saying “It’s bloody well time, that’s how I feel."110 Indeed Nutrite played hardball as exactly as Uniroyal has from day one, hiding behind process and legal manoeuvring whenever possible rather than own up to its public responsibilities.
Gail Martin in the same Independent edition wrote an article on sport fish in the Canagagigue Creek. The Ontario MOE was actually suggesting that PCBs in the fish might be related to caulking that the Grand River Conservation Authority used in the Woolwich Dam. My personal opinion is that as usual the MOE are full of “poo poo del toro”.
The Record in its June 25, 2004 edition suggests that bad wiring might have caused the earlier explosion and fire in the waste water treatment system. At the moment, I’m wondering about migrating methane gas in this area from the M2 Landfill buried beneath these Uniroyal buildings. Of course, Crompton and the MOE would never admit to such a thing as it would necessitate major expense at all the former landfills within the Elmira town limits. Bob Burtt wrote in the August 20, 2004 edition of the Record that the Ontario MOE laid a new control order on Crompton regarding both the June fire plus 212 spills they’d had over the previous five years. The control order required a comprehensive document from Uniroyal managers stating in detail what caused the fire and how to avoid future fires. The previously mentioned “spills” included past Crompton air emissions.
In September 2004, Crompton had a new boss, namely Ron Lackner. While he put a softer voice on Crompton’s dealings, I didn’t see anything but superficial changes in the company’s dealings with the public.
ENDNOTES for Chapter 7
105 Bob Burtt, “Elmira study shows higher cancer risks”, Kitchener-Waterloo Record, February 25, 2003
107 Cary Lessard, “Canagagigue Creek new home for more fish”, Woolwich Observer, September 27,2003
108 Bob Burtt, “Crompton slashes pollution”, Kitchener-Waterloo Record, February 24, 2003
109 Julie Sawyer, “Cause of explosion still unknown”, Elmira Independent, June 18, 2004
110 Julie Sawyer, “Agreement reached”, Elmira Independent, June 11, 2004