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Tuesday, September 17, 2019
ELMIRA WATER WOES: THE TRIUMPH OF CORRUPTION, DECEIT, AND CITIZEN BETRAYAL
TABLE OF CONTENTS
16 ....The Blame Game
17 ....Environmental Appeal Board
18 ....The Sweetheart Deal
19 ....Public Outrage
20 ....The Public Consultation Scam
26 ....The Long Con Continues
27 ....DNAPL Collusion
The Blame Game
A little over a month after the South Wellfield (E7 & E9) was shut down the MOE issued an Emergency Control Order. They wanted NDMA discharges going to the Elmira Sewage Treatment Plant from Uniroyal to end. These discharges had of course been known since they were first discovered in 1977 and absolutely no action was deemed necessary then or since. Funny how a little public exposure changes government priorities. The idea that Uniroyal NDMA discharges through the Elmira STP and into the “Gig” was O.K. prior to the Elmira Water Crisis but not afterwards can help one understand the subjectivity involved in environmental enforcement. It seems to be similar to the idea of municipal by-laws regarding noise, litter, and odours being attended to only on a complaints driven basis.
The first Environmental Appeal Board (EAB) hearing started in January 1990 after Uniroyal Chemical appealed the Ministry’s Emergency Control Order. The public uproar seemed to have as much to do with downstream users as it did with the limited number of citizens in Elmira drinking contaminated water. All the local media were reporting the news as fast as new information developed and that included NDMA concentrations being found in Kitchener, Brantford, the Grand River, Cayuga, etc. After all this was a first in an Ontario town or city that wasn’t hundreds of miles north and inhabited by native Canadians only. Plus exactly how far had the contamination already spread downstream? At least groundwater could take years to decades to travel hundreds of metres whereas surface water could go a hundred miles in a few days to a week.
The mere fact that within a month Woolwich Township and the Region of Waterloo would be pumping NDMA contaminated well E2 in the North Wellfield to waste (ie. into the Canagagigue Creek) was lost on everybody. Of course they were doing this in order to use Well E2 as an Interceptor Well. It was closest to Uniroyal Chemical and most immediately contaminated after the shutdown of the south wellfield caused more Uniroyal contaminated groundwater to be drawn north-west towards the North Wellfield. Of course that is if you believe that well E2 and some of the other wells hadn’t already been contaminated with NDMA years before. I for one do not believe that. None of that mattered to the MOE who needed to deflect public attention from their own failures.
Then in February 1990 Federal Health officials found NDMA in Sundor fruit juices that were manufactured in St. Jacobs, Ontario. Now this was peculiar. St. Jacobs had their own wells and they were miles south of Elmira’s south wellfield. How exactly did anybody blame this on Uniroyal Chemical unless Sundor were skipping using St. Jacobs water and sneaking into Elmira to use their water. The two St. Jacobs wells were named SJ1 and SJ2 and were located in the north end of St. Jacobs just off of Northside Dr.. They were completed in the Bedrock Aquifer and according to consultants CH2MHILL there were aesthetic quality problems. Presumably prior to this homes and businesses were on their own private, likely shallower wells. SJ1 & 2 were drilled in 1966 under the supervision of the OWRC and put into service in 1972. Sundor actually filed a suit against the Region, the Township and Uniroyal Chemical.
By May 1990 Uniroyal were in full blown spin doctoring and public relations mode. They held a “Briefing for Community Leaders” at the Tien Lee Restaurant in downtown Elmira. They were on offence and they meant to score points just the same as the MOE were desperately trying to do the same. They pointed out that the MOE as well as CEAC (Citizens Environmental Advisory Committee), chaired by Murray Haight a local Biology Professor and resident, had refused them permission to pump their containment wells PW1, PW2 and PW3 installed way back in 1981. They may have inadvertently forgotten to tell the Community Leaders about the good reasons Murray, CEAC and the MOE had for not approving the plan to pump these wells and keep the contaminated groundwater on site.
Very shortly afterwards the Region of Waterloo seeing the upcoming expenses and general lack of honesty and willingness to accept responsibility, filed suit.24 They named Uniroyal Chemical, the Ontario Ministry of Environment, Nutrite and Varnicolor Chemical in their suit. The last two surprised more than just a few folks. The Region had hired CH2MHILL to be their principal hydrogeologists and basically took the lead in researching who was to blame as well as the technical characteristics of the Elmira aquifers. CH2MHILL overall did a very good job although they did eventually exonerate both Nutrite and Varnicolor Chemical at least in regards to NDMA contamination. In hindsight it was peculiar that the Region named them both very early on, considerably before CH2MHILL exonerated them.
In July and August 1990 low levels of NDMA were being found in some of the remaining drinking wells in the North Wellfield despite pumping well E2 to waste. On August 28, 1990 and despite the somewhat only semi-relevant EAB hearing already underway, the MOE issued another Control Order. This one was at least more to the point. It was based upon the report of Provincial Officer (& hydrogeologist) Bob Hillier. It had concrete demands in it for some, not all of the necessary work needed on the Uniroyal site. This included excavating RPE 4 & 5, the “Consolidation” pits, on the east side of the site as well as remediation of DNAPLS as a contaminant source. Also hydraulic containment was to be used in order to contain ALL aquifers on the site. Of course Uniroyal appealed this Control Order on September 17, 1990 and it was back to the EAB for a second hearing.
While all this was going on the Region of Waterloo were going great guns in building a water pipeline up from Waterloo to St. Jacobs and Elmira. In hindsight my understanding is that despite St. Jacobs having their own two wells (SJ1 & SJ2), they had been connected via a small pipeline to Elmira which was to supplement their supply when necessary. This would somewhat explain both the Sundor Juice legal matters as well as why the imminent Waterloo pipeline also supplied St. Jacobs as well as Elmira.
By late October 1990 the pipeline had almost been completed which really was astounding considering the distance involved as well as bureaucratic and legal complexities. Nowadays certainly a complicated Environmental Assessment would be the minimum requirement prior to even starting construction. Again I have to speculate that perhaps plans had been on the drawing board prior to the well shutdowns in November 1989.
Environmental Appeal Board
By November 1990 a year after the “Water Crisis” hit Elmira the Environmental Appeal Board had appointed three members to the panel to hear Uniroyal’s appeal of the Ministry’s latest August 28, 1990 Control Order. They were Mary Schwass, Barry Adams and Chairman Knox Henry. Uniroyal were appealing the whole idea that they were solely responsible for the destruction of the Elmira Aquifers as well as the Ministry’s claims that the two east side “Consolidation” pits were leaking into the Municipal Aquifers. This especially rankled Uniroyal as they’d just emptied out sludges and solids in the bottom of their west side operating ponds and supposedly put them into safer and more secure pits on the east side. In fact based upon the 1984 Control Order they’d already spent considerable time and money in a decades overdue clean up of their property.
Everything was conveniently focused on NDMA (n-nitrosodimethylamine). We the public were told that this chemical migrated much faster than other chemicals or solvents in the groundwater hence that was how it got to the south wellfield undetected. This story by the Region, MOE and Uniroyal had a few holes in it. Firstly NDMA was known to be in Uniroyal’s wastewaters by 1977 and in the air by 1979. Didn’t anybody whose responsibility was to the environment, the MOE for example, think to take drinking well samples years earlier? We are to believe that the very first drinking water sampled for NDMA was from the south wellfield in September 1989 and then the results weren’t ready until November 1989.
Secondly by 1989 and likely years sooner there were low levels of various solvents already in the South Wellfield. These included toluene, xylene, styrene, ethylbenzene, and 1, 1, 1 trichloroethane.25 Two of them were attributed to “laboratory artifacts” although in this context (Uniroyal & Varnicolor) I am extremely doubtful. Realize that the two wells had only been there and pumping since 1970 and 1976 respectively. In my opinion some Uniroyal contaminants including NDMA were in the south of Elmira before the south Wellfield was even constructed. There were very high NDMA concentrations found near Oriole Parkway and Arthur St. in 1989 and 1990. While well E7 was around 3-4 parts per billion, these private wells were as high as 40 ppb.
In February/March 1991 CH2MHILL released their 2 Volume Report for the Region of Waterloo. They pointed the finger for NDMA contamination solely at Uniroyal Chemical. They had done an incredible amount of work in record time. Their examination of the history of the Elmira Aquifers, the Elmira Wellfields and of numerous manufacturers as well as other possible NDMA sources was incredible and detailed. One of the most interesting facts for me was that even after the west side ponds (RPW 5, 6, 7, 8) were clay lined in 1970 they still leaked 3,400 litres per day through their bottoms into underlying aquifers and aquitards.26
As previously mentioned there were several local citizens who testified in May 1991 as to the harm done by Uniroyal Chemical over the decades. This included Ken Reger, Susan Rupert and Esther Thur. Brendan Birmingham of the M.O.E. testified in regards to Dioxins on the Uniroyal property and in their products such as Agent Orange. The Dioxins had been found in 1984 at 600 parts per trillion in the former municipal landfill known as M2 now part of Uniroyal’s property. To this day that area has been blatantly ignored by both the MOE and by Uniroyal and their successors. Jeff Merriman of Chemtura often said that if and when they were digging for some other reason such as installing a pipe or a power line and they came across contamination, they would remove it. That was not remotely an acceptable form of remediation for an area of known Dioxin and DNAPL contamination. DNAPLS or Dense Non-Aqueous Phase Liquids are generally but not always chlorinated solvents whose density is greater than 1 thus they do not float on the water table but sink below and through it. Besides very slowly dissolving into groundwater they also can gravity flow with the slope of the surface that they are sitting on particularly if it were a relatively impermeable clay aquitard for example. Uniroyal as well as other local industry dumped their waste products into this area and pretending that hydraulic containment was an adequate solution was nonsense. Even if the free phase DNAPL had all gravity flowed westwards onto the neighbour’s property and thus was no longer present was grossly inadequate. Any DNAPL on either the Nutrite , STP, or Sulco property was not hydraulically contained and would thus add dissolved contaminants to the offsite Elmira Aquifers for either decades or centuries unless they were remediated.
Evidence at the second EAB hearing (Aug.28/90) heard during 1991 was very damning to Uniroyal and also not terribly flattering to the MOE. This was in spite of the fact that it was only the MOE presenting their evidence hence they could omit certain evidence and lean more heavily on that which favoured their case. For example in June 1991 they were able to show the Board that Dense Non-Aqueous Phase Liquids (DNAPLS) were sitting in the sub-surface below the former west side operating lagoons (RPW 5-8). These DNAPLS had been specifically mentioned in the 1990 Control Order and the MOE appropriately wanted them removed as they were such a long term source of contamination to the Aquifers.
While the Appeal Board hearing was underway Uniroyal were still working on aspects of the Control Order that they had not appealed. Thus they applied for and received a Certificate of Approval on August 6, 1991 allowing them to operate deep pumping wells PW1 and PW3. This C. of A. had conditions attached which included discharge limits of treated groundwater to the creek. The idea was to hydraulically contain the site from the rest of the Elmira Aquifers without further poisoning the already grossly contaminated Canagagigue Creek. This was a case of slamming the gate after the horses (NDMA & more) had bolted although in this case there was an almost never ending supply of horses still left to bolt. The discharge criteria were one of the unresolved problems back in 1981-82 when the wells were first drilled. The Board then adjourned the hearings for the summer expressing hope that Uniroyal and the MOE might negotiate and come to some compromises over the summer which would shorten the already lengthy hearings. The Board should have been more careful as to what they wished for.
The Sweetheart Deal
As of this point in time the only party to present their case was the Ontario MOE. Neither Nutrite , Uniroyal, Woolwich Township, the Region of Waterloo, nor APT had presented their evidence. By September the EAB were asking the two parties, MOE and Uniroyal, if they were ready to get back at it and they responded no that they were still in serious discussions and hoped to be able to shorten the hearing as had been requested. On October 7, 1991 Uniroyal Chemical and the Ontario Ministry of Environment inked a private Settlement Agreement between themselves. Keep in mind that while Uniroyal had seen the MOE’s case, the public and the parties had not seen Uniroyal’s. Over the summer the Ontario MOE alone got to see Uniroyal’s cards. It seems in hindsight pretty clear that the MOE were not happy with what Uniroyal had and was willing to make public. They cut a sweetheart deal and worse.
How worse exactly? They and Uniroyal Chemical together, ostensibly regulator enforcing environmental laws versus polluter responsible for destroying the Elmira Aquifers and the Canagagigue Creek through the decades; came to a mutually self-serving deal. They also manipulated the rules in an attempt to shut down the other parties and the entire EAB hearings. By revoking the August 28, 1990 Control Order that was the basis for Uniroyal Chemical’s appeal to the EAB, the MOE claimed that the EAB no longer had jurisdiction.
The idea of revoking the August 1990 Control Order was to stop the hearing in its tracks and prevent the Ministry’s culpability for the disaster to be put on full display by Uniroyal. Can you imagine memos over the decades in regards to the unlined operating lagoons and waste pits? How about documentation that indicated the MOE’s initial satisfaction with putting literally thousands of drums with toxic liquid wastes into the ground? Ongoing, overflowing east side waste pits that flowed westwards, southwards, and even eastwards onto the Stroh farm would certainly cause outrage. How about burying Dioxins in drums on both sides of the creek? Or burning them while they were in the municipal landfill (M2) prior to them owning the former landfill. How about the construction of the east side Stroh Drain (approx. 1985) along with the sub-surface tile diverting contaminated groundwater to discharge farther downstream in the creek? What if the alleged Interceptor Trench on the Uniroyal property was completed and diverting toxic groundwater into the Stroh Drain and through the Martin swimming pond on its’ way to the creek? Uniroyal had the Ontario Ministry of the Environment by the throat. And they were squeezing. The MOE had been assuring both the media and the public for two decades that they were on top of any and all environmental problems at Uniroyal Chemical in Elmira. Love Canal in 1979 in the U.S. had opened a lot of eyes to the dangers of indiscriminate disposal of toxic wastes and human beings sensitivities to them. The MOE had had a decade’s heads up but In fact they were negligent, incompetent, lazy, and corrupt. Not all of them of course, just mostly the ones at the top. On November 4, 1991 the MOE issued a new control order.
On November 5, 1991 the EAB reconvened. The other parties were outraged and the EAB panel were shocked by the arrogance and obvious collusion on display between the Ministry and the polluter. The private Settlement Agreement of October 7 was to take precedence over the new control order and the other proper and legal parties to the process were being told to pack up and take a hike. Among other bizarre paragraphs in the October 7, 1991 Settlement Agreement was Uniroyal’s clear position in a June 27/91 letter to the MOE as stated in paragraph 1.10 page 2 of the Agreement that they were planning on suing the Ontario government if they lost at the Environmental Appeal Board hearing. This was Uniroyal hardball at its maximum. This was an in your face threat and clear muscle flexing. The MOE had caved. Another paragraph left the option open for Uniroyal to sue “third parties” for contributions to the offsite cleanup. At the minimum Uniroyal and the MOE knew about Nutrite and Varnicolor.
Reaction was immediate and loud. All the parties objected and they were uncharacteristically blunt in their assessment of both Uniroyal and the MOE. They accused those two parties of treating the Board, the process and the other parties with disdain and contempt. The EAB retired to determine whether or not they had jurisdiction to continue or not. The very next day two environmentalists from Dunnville, Ontario, Pat and Chuck Potter, were at the gates of Uniroyal Chemical. Along with APT Environment protesters present, Pat and Chuck padlocked Uniroyal’s gates closed. If Uniroyal were going to lock out the public from the process then the public were at least symbolically going to lock them in.
On November 18, 1991 APT protested at the MOE offices in Hamilton. They demanded and received an audience with the Director of the West-Central Region of the MOE. The MOE were unmoved. They knew that their very existence was hanging by a thread if they couldn’t pull off this coup. They hunkered down and decided to wait it out.
During this month Murray Haight the Chairman of CEAC resigned. Whether or not it was due to the MOE’s obvious misbehaviour and contempt for the EAB process, public consultation, or the environment I have not ascertained. The following month APT members took a walk on the wild side for many of them. They protested at the homes of two Uniroyal executives in Waterloo, Ontario about twelve miles due south. They left a wreath at each of their doors with a note saying “You are responsible”.
It was not a happy Christmas in Elmira for those who understood the enormity of what had occurred. The Board had not made a decision regarding their jurisdiction but at the same time the hearings had not been underway since the previous June.
The privately negotiated October 7, 1991 Settlement Agreement between the MOE and Uniroyal Chemical was the first blatant example of collusion, back room deals and corruption for many APT members. Yes they had heard stories from Richard, Ted and I in regards to the incompetence and dishonesty of the Ministry in regards to Varnicolor Chemical but perhaps they hoped that the bigger environmental story at Uniroyal with both local and national media would keep the Ministry honest. It did not. I believe that APT did the right things in supporting the padlocking of Uniroyal’s gates, protesting at the Ministry offices in Hamilton, and taking the walking protest to the homes of Wally Ruck and David Ash in Waterloo. Those three actions were intended to send the message that citizens were not going to back off just because our allegedly responsible and in charge authorities were in the “Let’s make a deal” mode. Citizens, not bureaucrats nor politicians, were in the front lines regarding suffering from the results of toxic air, water and soil.
At the end of the following month in January 1992, citizens did get some good news. The long awaited hydraulic containment of the Municipal Aquifers began. It was however, in hindsight, typical of the complete “cleanup” promised for this site in that it was totally inadequate and totally minimal. Uniroyal and their consultants had two wells pumping namely PW1 in the north-west and PW3 in the south-east. Unsurprisingly the most heavily contaminated areas in the south-west corner of the site continued leaking off-site as they had been doing for the previous fifty years.
On January 16, 1992 Uniroyal held their second Briefing for Community Leaders. Again there was some “preaching to the choir” as most of these Community Leaders were Uniroyal’s kind of people . That would be those with vested interests in keeping everything low key and focusing always on the positives. Mayor Bob waters among others had great concerns that the “Water Crisis” could negatively affect things like the Maple Syrup Festival, downtown business and so forth. This was not necessarily a bad thing in that as Mayor he did have to provide an even keel and not let this man-made disaster define Elmira for ever after. To a certain extent he and his colleagues did too good of a job. After all somewhere in the mix needed to be an appreciation for the permanent damage that had been done to both the environment and to the health of Woolwich residents. There was little or none.
The Public Consultation Scam
Both the MOE and Uniroyal Chemical knew that they desperately needed to give the impression to the public that they would be forthcoming and honest regarding the steps needed to fix that which they bilaterally had made a mess of. There had been warnings over the years as were described in Chapter One. There had been fourty years of environmental degradation due to greed, incompetence, laziness, and a complete lack of honest and diligent oversight from the authorities whether health departments, federal and provincial environment ministries or departments, and from local and regional councillors. Everybody was so enamoured with the joys of jobs and taxes that they were wilfully blind to the huge issues accompanying Uniroyal Chemical. To say that a chemical company carries a lot of baggage is a huge understatement. This company carried more than most in that they were confident to the point of arrogance regarding their operations. Any voice or complaint raised was almost considered unpatriotic around town.
The Uniroyal Public Advisory Committee (UPAC) was the solution for Uniroyal and the MOE. Sure they knew that they had a lot of work ahead of them but they were confident that they could manipulate the same citizens that they’d been successfully stringing along for decades. Open up the Committee to APT plus a couple of other well meaning folks but at the same time always maintain a majority of people or groups on it that could be counted on to strongly serve the status quo. The Chamber of Commerce was a good start along with a few sitting councillors who were known to be friendly to Uniroyal. Quentin Martin, Grace Sudden and Ruby Weber representing the Township would do the job. Throw in the Region of Waterloo, Grand River Conservation Authority, the Waterloo District School Board, and you’ve definitely got enough voting members to keep any wild eyed radicals from APT under control. To a certain extent anybody blatantly supporting Uniroyal did have to be careful. After all the drinking wells were shut down and Uniroyal had assumed full ownership as to being the only source of NDMA at least. In fact there were now no longer any allegations from anybody including Uniroyal that others may have been part of the “Water Crisis”. At least for many more years anyways that was the case and even then it was kept low key. Therefore Uniroyal’s supporters on Council and on UPAC spoke carefully. They professed to want to find the best way to clean up the Aquifers as well as the site itself.
Susan Rupert, the original APT Coordinator and spokesperson was appropriately skeptical. This may have been due to her and Sandra Bray’s short time as members of CEAC, the Citizens Environmental Advisory Committee. This had been a committee of Woolwich Council and she and Sandra had issues with certain confidentiality requirements. They felt that Elmira and Woolwich citizens needed to know more than the committee were allowed to distribute to the public. From my own standpoint of having been a formal member of UPAC and CPAC for a total of ten years I can understand Susan’s concerns. Once UPAC was dragged into being a committee of Woolwich Council there was a slow erosion of their independence and forthrightness to the public. Unfortunately Susan Rupert was a voice in the wilderness.
APT members had made her their spokesperson for good reason. She was passionate, articulate and not remotely intimidated by either “suits” or other self professed experts. She was willing to spell it out to whoever objected to her or APT’s position as to why she felt a particular issue needed addressing. If she felt that a proposal by the company was nonsensical she would word it as such and then ask them to please help her understand what she must be missing in their previous explanation. Despite this other coordinators pushed very hard to get APT to join UPAC. One former APT coordinator has stated that he was also against APT joining UPAC. His logic was that after two years APT had taken both Uniroyal and the Ontario MOE’s measure and found them wanting. Their word was not good. Also if you lie down with fleas you will get fleas. Richard Clausi saw absolutely no good that would come out of APT joining forces with unspecified other parties simply to lend their credibility to two parties with zero credibility. Richard has advised that the two APT coordinators pushing the hardest to get APT to join UPAC were Sylvia Berg and Susan Bryant. Susan Rupert indicated that her recollection was that Sylvia Berg was certainly pushing hard for APT to join UPAC whereas Susan Bryant she was less certain of. Susan Rupert knew that APT would be intentionally drowned out if they participated in a forum encompassing all kinds of other groups with other agendas or possibly with only one and that was to defend Uniroyal Chemical. APT was getting their message out to the public very nicely without joining forces with disparate groups with different axes to grind. Susan was also concerned with the request that these meetings be held in private much as CEAC had been. In hindsight this demand from the Ministry of Environment seemed counter-productive. It was Barb Trebilcock of the MOE to whom Susan Rupert was speaking. It was also Barb Trebilcock who pushed Susan Rupert to take the Ministry’s offer back to APT for their input. This ridiculous and patently undemocratic demand had been turned down outright by Susan Rupert. She knew that APT had been founded by her, Esther Thur, and Sandra Bray on the basis of full public disclosure. She felt there wasn’t a chance nor should there be that APT would even remotely consider the MOE’s offer. It seemed somehow that Barb Trebilcock had figured out ahead of time that APT were about to change course dramatically. Could some private phone calls have been made by Barb beforehand and if so to whom?
By August 1991 Susan Rupert had departed Elmira for Waterloo. This had to be a huge upheaval for her and her two children. It seemed peculiar at the time but I believe that both lawyer and mayor Bob Waters assisted in Susan’s moving as well as a local real estate firm helped her sell her home quickly. This could have been either respect or common decency for Susan’s contributions to the community or it could even be sadly interpreted as certain local powers assisting in the departure of a talented and effective citizen activist. Imagine Susan Rupert’s surprise to learn that when UPAC began in 1992 that all the meetings were open to both the public and the media. What exactly had the MOE been doing with their previous demands of closed meetings? They had advised Susan Rupert that Uniroyal were insisting on that condition which had made Susan’s decision very easy. Was somebody lying here to Susan and if so whom?
APT’s first campaign was against what they called Uniroyal’s Pump & Dump system. Yes they recognized that the groundwater which Uniroyal started pumping from the municipal aquifer in January 1992 was undergoing treatment prior to discharge to the “Gig”. The problem was how much treatment and the discharge criteria. Keep in mind that this hydraulic containment consisted of at first only two wells in the municipal aquifer pumping out contaminated deep groundwater , treating it down to certain predetermined concentrations and then discharging it into the already grossly contaminated “Gig”. The more highly contaminated shallow or upper aquifer kept on discharging its highly contaminated groundwater to the creek while at the same time the treated municipal aquifer groundwater was being discharged there as well. Also it’s not as if any of these discharge criteria were zero. Some concentrations were very low. Sometimes chemicals would be discharged to the creek at concentrations below the Detection Limits. Other chemicals however could have discharge criteria of 2 or 5 parts per billion and thus could be discharged up to those limits. The problem was that there was no scientific knowledge that could claim with certainty that discharging a half dozen toxic chemicals below either their Ontario Drinking Water Standards (ODWS) or Provincial Water Quality Objectives (PWQO) was safe. Imagine when there were 100 different chemicals in the groundwater undergoing treatment and then being discharged. Local citizens, APT members, and downstream users were unimpressed with this plan.
They had reason to be because in fact it wasn’t remotely hydraulically containing the Uniroyal property. The only reason that the discharge criteria were capable of being met at the start of municipal aquifer pumping in January 1992 was because only PW1 in the north-west and PW3 in the south-east were pumping. That was inadequate and Uniroyal and the MOE tacitly knew it. They soon quietly added pumping well PW4 in the heart of the groundwater contamination in their south-west area in order to slow the ongoing migration of grossly contaminated groundwater off-site. Generally opposition faded several years later as the shallow aquifer was finally partially hydraulically contained in 1997 and the worst groundwater that naturally discharged to the creek was treated prior to its discharge. Although that in itself was also very problematic at the time as we’ll discuss later on.
On February 5, 1992 the Decision from the first Environmental Appeal Board was finally made public. Do recall that the second Appeal to the EAB had already been started, testimony given and then the whole thing shut down by the MOE /Uniroyal Chemical sweetheart deal of October 7, 1991. For the first appeal and hearing the Board had decided that the discharge criteria from Uniroyal’s wastewater treatment plant into the Elmira Sewage Treatment Plant could not exceed 200 parts per trillion (ppt). of NDMA. Uniroyal had been suggesting that 500 ppt. was a more appropriate discharge level. The MOE, the EAB, and the Region and Township all hoped that after time in the Elmira STP that Uniroyal’s outgoing concentration of NDMA would be much lower yet. I recall hearing the news with many other APT members and kind of thinking “What’s the big deal?” To me this didn’t seem to be as big a victory as some seemed to think it was. The drinking water standard was 9 parts per trillion and I saw this belated Decision and discharge criteria as being a compromise giving a break to the polluter whom I had as yet seen no reason whatsoever to be deserving of .
The EAB took months to determine whether or not they still had jurisdiction over Uniroyal’s appeal to them of the now rescinded August 1990 Control Order. Rescinded that is in mid appeal. What an incredible way for two guilty parties to walk on the public consequences of their decade’s long mismanagement and negligence. The EAB essentially threw the ball back into the hands of the other parties to the hearing namely Nutrite, the Region, the Township, and APT Environment. The EAB stated that if any party stepped forward and indicated they wanted to keep going then they the Board would support that. Nobody stepped up. Nutrite were thrilled not to have had their dirty linen aired publicly. That would take another eight years plus another control order to do that. The Region, Township, and APT all said thanks but no thanks. The Region and Woolwich Township eventually obtained cheques from Uniroyal to cover their “Water Crisis” costs and that seemed to satisfy them. I never did fully understand why APT didn’t want to proceed. Possibly personal time commitments were one of the factors. Personally I would have loved to have seen Uniroyal’s dirt on the Ontario MOE displayed in public. It could have resulted in a public inquiry or worse for them. It also could have given them a housecleaning and a different attitude in dealing with Uniroyal in the ensuing 26 years.
In March 1992 Uniroyal managed to spill approximately 1000 gallons of waste water plus ammonia into the Creek (“Gig”). I expect that but for the scrutiny they were under since November 1989 the public would never even have heard of it. This for far too many decades was likely simply seen as the cost of doing business. The MOE did charge them for this environmental offence and in fact in November of this year Uniroyal pled guilty to the discharge of waste water containing Ammonia and NDMA to the Creek (“Gig”) and were fined $16,000.
In April 1992 Uniroyal’s Public Relations campaign took a major hit. CBC television and their program “The Nature of Things” narrated by David Suzuki spoke to the Elmira Water Crisis. As was to be expected under the circumstances and with the facts available at the time, the program was highly critical of Uniroyal Chemical and their behaviour both prior to November 1989 and since. What the public were not advised of and what has been demonstrated as well since, was Uniroyal’s aggressive stance towards their detractors and critics. They were in communications with CBC TV prior to the airing of the Elmira program and they made it clear to them that legal action was part of their arsenal if Mr. Suzuki took any liberties in their opinion with his presentation of events and or facts they disputed. In hindsight we and Mr. Suzuki only knew the bare bones of the extent of contamination, the extent of efforts to deflect the public away from the truth and of the sometimes cozy relationship between the Ontario Ministry of Environment and major air and groundwater polluters whether multi- billion dollar, multi nationals or like Varnicolor Chemical who were simply multi-million dollar, single locations.
There had been DNAPL (Dense Non-Aqueous Phase Liquids) investigations and reports back in the early and mid 1980s conducted by Morrison-Beatty on behalf of Uniroyal Chemical. That DNAPLS were present en masse in and under the Uniroyal Chemical Elmira site was never in dispute with honest parties and sometimes even less honest parties. That did not however stop Uniroyal and their consultants from gilding the lily as liberally as they thought they could get away with. To this day the DNAPL cover up is almost second to none. Yes they did one hell of a job literally for many decades in hiding and minimizing the extent of permanent damage to the “Gig” from their discharges of POPs (Persistent Organic Pollutants). Even now it is unlikely that they will do even 5% of the cleanup necessary in the creek to remove Dioxins/Furans, DDT, Polyaromatic Hydrocarbons, PCBs, Mercury, and so much more.
Part of any good cover-up relates to changing the focus of the message. They therefore went into long and convoluted debates about the differences between Free Phase DNAPLs and Residual DNAPLs. Free Phase refers to the liquid, non dissolved in water, phase of the usually chlorinated solvent such as chlorobenzene. Free phase DNAPLS could move both vertically and horizontally through the sub-surface via gravity. They would then collect in low lying areas or depressions as puddles or pools. Often these depressions that they collected in would be on the surface of aquitards which are the much less permeable to both groundwater and solvents, layers of clay and or silts. The more permeable sands and gravels in which groundwater more readily flowed are known as aquifers. Sometimes aquifers would have small areas of silts and even clays in them which could also contain free phase DNAPLS. Free phase DNAPLS are the bane of remediation experts and of municipal drinking water systems in industrialized towns and cities across North America. To this day, Trichloroethylene (TCE) is still routinely detected in the drinking water systems of both Cambridge and Waterloo, Ontario albeit at below drinking water standards via dilution and or treatment. The problem is that Free Phase DNAPLs represent a huge, long term source of groundwater contamination because they dissolve so slowly although nevertheless often contaminating groundwater above the drinking standards . The long term aspect depends on the volume of Free Phase DNAPLs in the sub-surface but many decades to centuries of time are needed to finally remove them.
Residual DNAPLS may be thought of as the “tails” of a passing volume of Free Phase DNAPLs after the DNAPL has continued moving either vertically or horizontally below ground. Residual DNAPLS are the same chemical components of the earlier passing Free Phase DNAPLS but instead of pooling together they are spread out and are occupying tiny pore spaces between the grains of sand or gravel. They may also contaminate groundwater at above drinking water standards but because of their much smaller volume and greater distance between the droplets they will dissolve in groundwater much more quickly than the “pooled” Free Phase DNAPLs. Conestoga Rovers on behalf of Uniroyal often suggested that the Elmira site only had Residual DNAPLS not Free Phase. This was outright rubbish and has been proven false on a number of occasions over the decades when either by intent or chance they bumped into more Free Phase DNAPLs.
After Rich Clausi, Ted Oldfield, and I kicked the daylights out of the credibility of Varnicolor Chemical and the Ontario MOE I decided to join APT at the Uniroyal Public Advisory Committee (UPAC) table. In those heady, early days we still had Uniroyal and the MOE on the run. Or at least they were on the defensive although we still didn’t know the extent of their perfidy, gamesmanship, collusion, and just plain dishonesty. More decades were to pass before all that became even clearer than it already was. One of my first tasks as an APT member was to read and understand the DNAPL reports being presented by Brian Beatty of Morrison-Beatty originally, later of Dames & Moore, consultants to Uniroyal Chemical. Morrison-Beatty had been working for Uniroyal for years and had not only researched, investigated, and written reports but they also testified at the Environmental Appeal Board hearings on Uniroyal’s behalf. Not all their testimony was well received including claims that the groundwater under Uniroyal flowed westwards due to the influence of the two well fields namely the North and South Well fields. This testimony would have been better received if Mr. Beatty hadn’t claimed that the Municipal Aquifer groundwater flowed west where due to the conflicting pulling of the North and South Well fields, the water essentially did not move, as if in a state of limbo. Whether it was my knowledge of his testimony at the EAB or not, I was somewhat immediately skeptical of his most recent DNAPL Report presented to UPAC in September 1992.
This DNAPL report, in my opinion and others, minimized the presence of DNAPLs on the Uniroyal site. Yes he listed various criteria and observations that purportedly could indicate the likelihood as to whether or not DNAPLS were indeed present in the sub-surface. One of these was a reference to a report written by a well known hydrogeologist by the name of Stan Feenstra. The quote taken from Mr. Feenstra appeared to indicate that there was a rule known as the 10% Solubility Rule. This rule suggested that anytime a chlorinated solvent or other well known DNAPL chemical was detected in a groundwater sample at or greater than 10% of its solubility in water; then it was very likely that the chemical existed in the sub-surface as an undissolved DNAPL, whether free phase or residual. There were many other problems with Mr. Beatty’s report but this is the one that got him into trouble. I decided to do a little checking.
Back in 1992 the Internet was not a household fixture. Yes I had worked as a computer operator at Dominion Life Assurance Company prior to attending University (1971-74) but I certainly didn’t have a home computer. Google wasn’t in my vocabulary so off I went to the University of Waterloo to do a little fact checking if you will. Well! I had already been exposed to blatant lying by the MOE in regards to Varnicolor Chemical hence I think it’s fair to say that I wasn’t terribly naïve. What I found after reading Stan Feenstra’s report however was a whole new level of deception by an allegedly professional consultant . Mr. Beatty had provided a one or two sentence quote from Mr. Feenstra’s report which indeed I found. The problem was that while this sentence or two did say to the effect that at one time hydrogeologists had supported the 10% Solubility Rule, it then went on to say that knowledgeable hydrogeologists today did not! Mr. Feenstra went on to clearly advise that the 10% Solubuility Rule was outdated and that a 1% Solubility Rule had been accepted and was in practice. Therefore any chlorinated solvent that was detected in groundwater with even only a concentration of 1% of its solubility was a very strong indication that DNAPLs were present. Bluntly put if this wasn’t an example of taking a quote out of context for the purpose of deceiving a public advisory committee as well as the general public, then I don’t know what is. By misleading UPAC, the MOE, and the media present at this public meeting, it certainly appeared that Mr. Beatty was attempting to greatly minimize the presence of DNAPLs in the sub-surface at the Uniroyal site.
I managed to dig up a phone number for Mr. Feenstra after being advised that he was working in Mississauga, Ontario. I phoned him, introduced myself and advised him that I believed his report was being quoted out of context for improper purposes. I read to him a few sentences of Mr. Beatty’s report. Mr. Feenstra quite properly advised me that before he would put anything in writing in an attempt to correct the situation that he needed to see more of Mr. Beatty’s report. I promised to either mail or fax him the cover page, date, title etc. as well as several pages surrounding the controversial comments and quote taken out of context. This I did and very shortly Mr. Feenstra sent me a two page letter in which he clearly indicated his displeasure with his work being so taken out of context. That letter I of course sent to APT members first and then took copies with me to the next UPAC meeting. Basically this one gross deception alone by Uniroyal’s consultants appropriately damaged and called into credibility the entire report.
According to Dr. David Ash of Uniroyal Chemical, Mr. Beatty and his company shortly afterwards were “consolidated”. That was Mr. Ash’s wording and I immediately believed that that was diplomatic speak for “fired”. Dr. Ash would not use that word but the implications were clear. From that point onwards Conestoga Rovers & Associates were Uniroyal’s primary consultants and Dames & Moore was gone. As a small aside Mr. Beatty was quite protective of his reputation and a few short years later I was advised by the new Woolwich Observer that their reporting of this incident earned them a threat of a libel lawsuit from Mr. Beatty. I was asked by the Observer to provide back up for my story about Mr. Beatty being “consolidated” which I did to the best of my abilities. Certainly APT members as well as UPAC members were all present and received copies of Mr. Feenstra’s rather clear letter. APT even presented me with a small award which was a document with a magazine ad from the Canadian Chemical Producers Association (CCPA) about chlorinated solvents (DNAPLs). This ad had a picture of three people with each covering either their eyes, ears, or mouth and there were individually hand written on them the names of D. Ash, S.Quigley of CRA and B. Beatty. It stated at the top in bold letters “If This Is The Response You Get To Your Questions About Chlorinated Solvents…” Handwritten below that and the picture were the words “Just call Alan Marshall”. Below that also in handwriting it stated “Thank You, Alan, for taking them on…and winning.” To this day I still have that award and treasure it. It was signed by Sylvia Berg, Susan Bryant, Glenys McMullen, Mary Ragula, Darrol Bryant, Barb Smith and Steve Brown. Over the intervening years the Observer would question my credibility over this matter as apparently they had either apologized or been forced to write some sort of retraction by Mr. Beatty’s lawyers. Very odd and I sometimes wonder to this day if their lack of coverage of the Chemtura/Lanxess ongoing story is a result of libel chill.
The headline of a story in the September 22, 1992 K-W Record was “Ministry misled, Elmira group says”. In that story my position was supported by Susan and Darrol Bryant, Wilf Ruland, and Jaimie Umpleby of the Region of Waterloo.27 This position was that Brian Beatty had taken a couple of sentences of Stan Feenstra’s DNAPL report out of context and the effect was to minimize or hide the quantity of DNAPLs on the Uniroyal site. A month later (October 15/92) a Bob Burtt headline in the Record stated that “Uniroyal may face charges in cleanup”. The article described how both APT and the Region of Waterloo were upset with Dames & Moore’s (Brian Beatty) DNAPL report and how Dave Ireland of the MOE suggested that charges might be filed against Uniroyal specifically because of this same DNAPL report being incomplete and misleading.28
Frank Rovers of Conestoga Rovers spoke to the UPAC committee about DNAPLS in very late November 1992. He stated that they were ubiquitous throughout the site and stated that they could never all be found or removed. His further position was that looking for or chasing them was nothing but a waste of money. These opinions which certainly seemed aimed at saving his client hundreds of millions of dollars did not go down well with Wilf Ruland (on behalf of APT), Dave Belanger (on behalf of the Region) and Bob Hillier hydrogeologist (Min. of Environment). Wilf, Dave and Bob felt that a carte blanche avoiding or ignoring DNAPLS in the sub-surface was unjustified and dangerous in the long run. Bob Burtt wrote an article about these debates in the December 1, 1992 Record29. A follow up article appeared in the December 11/92 Record in which Susan Bryant of APT was quoted as saying “DNAPL is the most serious environmental problem at Uniroyal."30 Strangely a mere twelve and a half months later another APT member (Vice-President Sylvia Berg) was defending her do nothing actions in regards to the Ontario MOE rolling over on the entire DNAPL problems. Dave Ireland of the MOE, at the same UPAC meeting, advised that DNAPLs had been found in both the Upper Aquifer as well as the Municipal Aquifer on the Uniroyal Chemical site in Elmira.
The Record as well as the Elmira Independent were certainly hot on the trail of both the MOE and Uniroyal in those days. They smelled and saw inexplicable behaviour and actions being masked behind consultants reports and or the Ministry running interference for and allowing unconscionable time delays at every opportunity. Early in the New Year (1993) the Record carried another story in which the MOE advised that Uniroyal were out of compliance with their Control Order as they had failed to submit a proper and complete DNAPL report on time. Of course Uniroyal protested stating that they were involved in multiple discussions with multiple partners in trying to determine the best route forward. Frank Rovers on behalf of Uniroyal also stated that someday in the future DNAPL cleanup might be possible.
That possibility wasn’t as far down the road as Mr. Rovers was possibly thinking. The strong position of Dr. John Cherry and Dr. Beth Parker was presented to Susan Bryant, Pat Mclean, myself and Wilf Ruland at a meeting in the professors'offices in January 2007. The two Profs made it very clear that DNAPL cleanup was both technically feasible and long recognized as being necessary to every extent possible. Pat McLean and Susan Bryant successfully made every effort possible never to raise this meeting and the conclusions of two of the world’s most preeminent hydrogeologists at what by then (2007) was known as CPAC (Chemtura Public Advisory Committee).
This was by no means the end of the DNAPL cover ups in Elmira. The technical evidence was far too overwhelming and too many parties knew that CRA and Uniroyal were not being forthcoming. This included the Region of Waterloo and the MOE but as we eventually learned all politicians have their price and the truth is always the first victim. Politicians on behalf of their constituencies are routinely bought off and they salve their consciences when lying to the public by believing that the end justifies the means. The means of course are by lying to the people they are representing. By the end of 1993 the Ontario Ministry of Environment had rolled over yet again. The Region followed shortly before. Both parties were bought off through private negotiations kept secret from the unwashed masses. This is called democracy according to its practitioners. The DNAPL cover ups continued well into 2009 albeit with more investigations and with some notable individuals standing up to be counted. Once again however key documents handed along to those in charge were not distributed to all the appropriate parties, intentionally. I mean really if one of your technical persons decides to do the right thing and puts it in writing then you must abuse your key position by ensuring that their information harmful to your position and interests cannot be used against your arguments. So simply file it . We will discuss these further DNAPL matters later on.
The Canadian Chemical Producers Association (CCPA) is a lobby group dedicated to improving the environmental performance of their membership. At least that is their stated purpose. I believe that some of their members have been inspired to actually improve their day to day operations in order to have less negative effects upon both the natural environment as well as upon human health. I also believe that many others are under their umbrella simply to enjoy the shade. In other words to avoid the glaring scrutiny and accountability of either the public or of government regulators. Two CCPA members stand out in Elmira, Ontario. One example of a sincere corporation trying their best to manufacture their chemical products responsibly and in as environmentally friendly manner as possible would be the former Sulco now known as Canada Colours. On the flip side of the coin we have had nothing but delay, disinformation, denial, and minimization of the environmental problems from Uniroyal Chemical and their successors.
The CCPA appoint private citizens to what they call their National Advisory Panel. This Panel meet regularly around North America to discuss suggestions and improvements that will make the CCPA more accountable as well as more responsive to public concerns. Again some of the members of this Panel are industry shills whereas others are appointed because of their serious environmental credentials. Two members that I know who have stood out positively would be Pat Potter of Dunnville, Ontario back in the 1990s and the other was Dr. Gail Krantzberg from McMaster University in Hamilton.
On January 25, 1993 the Elmira Independent published the full text of a news release by Pollution Probe out of Toronto. Ellen Schwartzel was a researcher at Pollution Probe and she and Pat Potter attempted to get the CCPA to suspend or expel corporate members including Uniroyal, convicted of breaking environmental laws. Their news release indicated that the CCPA were spending large amounts of money on full page newspaper ads (eg. Globe & Mail) extolling the virtues of their members commitment to *Responsible Care. *Responsible Care was the written system in place which CCPA members were supposed to be using to ethically and responsibly run their chemical manufacturing businesses. The news release listed thirteen CCPA member companies who have been charged and convicted for environmental offences in just the last few years in Ontario alone. Some of these companies included Dow, Du Pont, Polysar, Cyanamid, Novacor, Shell, and of course our favourite, Uniroyal Chemical in Elmira.31
The point that Ms. Schwartzel and Pat Potter were making is that the CCPA needs to be more than a PR and cheerleading brigade for Canadian and Ontario polluters. You can imagine Pat’s disgust when she found out later in 1993 that Sylvia Berg, on behalf of APT, had sent a letter to the CCPA praising Uniroyal for their behaviour here in Elmira. Pat learned of this letter from the CCPA not from any other APT members. The CCPA had responded to Pat’s criticism and demands to expel Uniroyal by advising her that the Vice-President of APT had sent them a letter in support of Uniroyal’s efforts in Elmira. Wow! Keep in mind that two close colleagues and friends of mine, Esther Thur and Rich Clausi were both on APT’s coordinating committee as of course was Sylvia. Sylvia absolutely had not run her letter by either the APT coordinating committee (in full) nor by the general membership. When later confronted by Rich Clausi, Sylvia suggested that she thought it was better not to be negative all the time towards Uniroyal and to give them some encouragement. This occurred in January 1994 when Pat Potter learned of our difficulties over DNAPLs with Sylvia and advised Richard of Sylvia’s earlier behaviour. While I do not have evidence of any other APT members or coordinators being in the know when Sylvia sent her grossly inappropriate letter to the CCPA, I suspect that at least one other, possibly two, knew about it and said nothing to the rest of APT. Again, to my shame, in hindsight, I like other APT members did not want to believe that Sylvia Berg was intentionally undermining Elmira citizens in their fight with Uniroyal and the Ministry of Environment. I guess I also did not want to confront the fact that an APT member was either co-opted or that APT had been infiltrated by a Uniroyal Chemical supporter.
It took decades before I began to understand the complexities and manipulation necessary for successful control freaks to get their way in large groups. Simple lying alone would never do. Key secret supporters need to be in position to support the gamesmanship and deception. False flags and public statements are helpful in throwing off the scent of betrayal. Private communications with expectations that the rest of your group that you are betraying will never see them are required. An emphasis on personal friendships and trust will insulate co-opted individuals from suspicion. A willingness to deceive and lie over a very long time frame is imperative. Never admitting, even when you are caught, that this behaviour is the norm, versus an aberration, is necessary. While I am no psychologist it takes some kind of a broken person, some kind of a sociopath to behave this way. What I have learned is that while psychopaths thank God are rare, sociopaths are all around us. They are self-centred, they are self-serving, they are narcissistic and have huge egos and they have no shame whatsoever. And lastly they are sometimes found and used by others more powerful and more broken than they are, to pursue their own ends.
The CCPA eventually morphed into the Chemical Industry Association of Canada (CIAC). They continued to be avid supporters of Canadian chemical manufacturers, regardless of their true commitment to the environment. The CIAC in later years advised CPAC (first Crompton then Chemtura Public Advisory Committee) members that they would rather have a problematic Uniroyal/Crompton, Chemtura, and eventually Lanxess under their umbrella than not. Similar to Sylvia Berg they professed that it was better to encourage the company rather than take sanctions against them or publicly condemn them for their failures. In much later years we learned that the CIAC had sitting CPAC members on their National Advisory Panel. These appointments also were not shared by anyone with the rest of the voting CPAC members at the time, including myself. If I had known I would have raised a major stink firstly about the secrecy and secondly about the conflict of interest. When Woolwich Township were advised in writing in the spring of 2017, in detail and with multiple witness statements, they ignored and swept the information under the carpet. This intentional corruption of public participation and public consultation will be discussed at length in a later chapter. There were inducements, benefits, and gratuities involved in both this case and another in which a sitting CPAC and later TAG member was involved. Again Woolwich Township turned a blind eye.
The Long Con Continues
1993 was an important if not crucial year. The phony DNAPL Report by Brian Beatty had been publicly exposed and the Ministry decided that they still had years of skullduggery and public deception ahead of them before they could go back to brazenly ignoring public input. They and their fellow travelers understood that as long as the public, the media, and APT members in general were watching closely that they had to play the game carefully. For my part I was still naïve despite everything that had happened. Every victory and every exposure of the lying and deceit of the MOE and Uniroyal had me thinking that we’d broken their backs. Surely they wouldn’t keep coming back for more. Surely they’d learned their lesson? Absolutely not. Manipulating and lying to the public was not a short term game for amateurs. Politicians have been doing it for centuries so why should little things like democracy, higher education of the populace, and greater media coverage stop them now?
On February 24, 1993 there was a public meeting held in the Elmira Community Centre. The two items discussed were the Alternative Water Supply and the Remediation of the Elmira Aquifers. These were part and parcel of regaining public trust and of getting the public onside for the ongoing private negotiating going on between the Ministry, Uniroyal, and the Region of Waterloo. After all, the shutting down of the Environmental Appeal Board hearings had left both the Region and the Township in a state of limbo. Was difficult court action against a multi-national, multi-billion dollar company the only way to go? Uniroyal had settled with the MOE on very favourable terms to themselves. Negotiations were difficult but as long as the Township and Region were willing to settle for their financial losses accrued over the previous three years directly dealing with the water shutdowns then a deal was possible. If however those two parties decided to get uppity and start insisting upon things like a real cleanup of the Uniroyal site then they were going to wait a very long time before they saw a nickel of what they had already spent on water testing, consultants, water pipelines, legal fees, and the Environmental Appeal Board hearings. Cheques were cut and deals were made. The Region signed formal deals jointly with Uniroyal Chemical and the MOE as well as a separate deal with the MOE. The Township received a cheque and mayor Bob Waters pronounced himself satisfied. Of course the public as always were excluded. There was no comprehensive plan or settlement that insisted upon source removal of buried toxins either on or off the Uniroyal site. The three levels of government all declared themselves happy and the public were not only left holding the bag in regards to health injuries but also in regards to environmental scars that would never be healed. To this day in mid 2018 the Creek is still grossly contaminated with Persistent Organic Pollutants, people are dead and dying from both air and water pollution locally and our Elmira Aquifers are not much closer to being restored than they were in 1993 when we were promised they’d be ready to go in 30 years. Turns out that date of 2023 was pushed back to 2028 as the offsite pumping didn’t start until 1998. Since then we’ve been advised by more honest experts that 2050 at the earliest may be the date that our local aquifers will be back in business.
In April of 1993 Uniroyal appealed a Ministry directive yet again. But then why wouldn’t they. Every time they did they gained either concessions or a sweetheart deal. This appeal was over the MOE’s Certificate of Approval regarding Uniroyal’s proposed Upper Aquifer Containment & Treatment System. Uniroyal felt that the MOE’s terms were too onerous: read expensive.
The MOE played a little tit for tat and charged both Uniroyal and David Ash on June 8/93 for failure to do ordered MISA tests. MISA stood for Municipal Industrial Strategy for Abatement and was concerned with storm water drains from the Uniroyal site discharging untreated into the Canagagigue Creek. It seems that unfortunately these drains had underground piping which was being infiltrated by contaminated groundwater. Oops! Everything from solvents, lindane, 2, 4-D and some Dioxins were being discharged into the “Gig” from the Uniroyal site. These MISA issues were discussed and debated for months at UPAC and typical of Uniroyal they would argue on one hand that many of their compounds were hydrophobic and couldn’t be dissolved in groundwater but on the other hand deny that underground pipes discharging these hydrophobic compounds were picking them up from the groundwater. To mollify UPAC members they did agree to epoxy various underground joints and in-ground catch basins to prevent groundwater infiltration. When pressed they would either blame up gradient railroad tracks or even air deposition of these toxic chemicals that they themselves used or produced. It was always somebody else’s fault.
On September 7, 1993 excavations began on the “Consolidation” pits, RPE 4 & 5 on the east side of the Uniroyal site. Uniroyal had built what they referred to as the “Envirodome” on the north-east corner of their site. It was into this building that 46,000 tonnes of toxic sludges, solids and drums were transferred. Much of the contents of the west side ponds (RPW 3-8) had but a few short years earlier been consolidated into these two east side pits. Also the contents of some of the other east side pits were put into these two larger pits. These pits had been covered over first with a little bit of ground and then plastic, allegedly to prevent rainfall from entering the pits and filling them like an overflowing bathtub. To this day the Envirodome is still there and could have been used to store so much more toxic waste that has stayed in the ground unnecessarily and inappropriately since the building was emptied over the summer of 1999. UPAC and CPAC over the years have through research long identified the various “hot spots” that require remediation and or excavation. The company and MOE have always had a plethora of excuses to justify their non-action on most of these spots.
History has also been unkind to the calibre and quality of these so called professional excavations on both sides of the creek done in the mid to late 1980s. Free phase DNAPLS and more have been found in different locations since, including at TPW-2 (west side) and RPE-1 and 3 on the east side. Hindsight and experience has taught me that any “cleanup” done out of public sight and public supervision is suspect. If the MOE claim that they alone supervised the cleanup, then this goes double.
These concerns have only been exacerbated by the hilarious descriptions given to CPAC during their last term (2010-2015) by Jeff Merriman, Chemtura’s environmental engineer. These were descriptions of the scientific, authoritative, and highly technical determinations regarding remaining contamination in the sub-surface after on-site “cleanups.” We at CPAC dubbed them Jeff’s magic nose and eyes. They were entirely based upon visual and olfactory examinations of the ground. Allegedly when he and or his colleagues couldn’t see or smell contamination then everything was just fine. If you think that this sounds beyond ridiculous than you are right. Compound it when you understand that many Uniroyal/Chemtura employees had long since lost any ability to smell chemicals after years of being immersed in them on a daily basis.
It is likely that this even explains the need for supplementary excavations decades later in the area known as GP1 (Gravel Pit 1). The initial excavations took place in 2013 and went down approximately eight feet in some places. The following summer, test results determined that three more areas within GP1 needed further excavation. It certainly appears that they shut down the initial excavations based upon Jeff’s magic nose and eyes only to look at the completed lab analyses months later.
The excavations of RPE 4 & 5 did not occur without incident. We had been advised ahead of time that odour suppressing foam would be used to keep the odours on site. Indeed with the benefit of binoculars we were able to see the excavations as they occurred. Watching the men in moon suits walking around instilled a sense of calm professionalism and competence. Those feelings lasted right up until the pungent and putrid odours made their way off–site hundreds of metres to the west. Elmira was treated yet again to Uniroyal’s ability to talk a much better game than they played. Amazingly all that was required was the application of more foam on the open excavation in order to cut back on the migrating fumes. It was also ironic/hypocritical that for decades Uniroyal had been telling residents that their air emissions were merely odourous not hazardous to their health. How peculiar that the safety protocols were so stringent for the workers including respirators, hazmat suits, and wash down procedures each day.
December 10, 1993 is a date for me that will live in infamy forever. To better illustrate why I will quote from a September 28, 1993 article in the K-W Record written by John Roe. The title is “Cleanup of 2 toxic waste pits going smoothly, Uniroyal says”. Several people were interviewed for this article including Steve Quigley of Conestoga Rovers and myself and Sylvia Berg from APT. The Bryants were on sabbatical in India and had been for some time. Their absence during this crisis turned out to have ramifications far in excess of anything than I could ever have imagined. Their absence delayed by more than a decade and a half my belated recognition of hints and anomalies that I should have picked up on much sooner. These ramifications will be discussed in depth in later chapters.
In this Record article John Roe wrote “Uniroyal paid for studies and a report on DNAPLS last year. But that report was heavily criticized and the province told the company to come up with another study.” Uniroyal and their consultants CRA did so. It was still a stinker. The earlier report was of course Brian Beatty’s (Dames & Moore) DNAPL report that took Stan Feenstra’s DNAPL conclusions completely out of context. While the CRA report may have found more likely DNAPL locations with the more appropriate 1% Solubility Rule, nevertheless this report was the equivalent of patching a rusting and leaking submarine. The old one desperately needed to be thrown out and the new started from scratch. I stated in my interview with Mr. Roe that Uniroyal had not done enough tests for DNAPLs. “There’s been little or no examination of a huge area" on the site. This area I was referring to was M2 or the former municipal landfill that Uniroyal now owned and was located in their highly contaminated south-west corner. Mr. Roe advised that Sylvia Berg stated that for Elmira to have drinkable water in 30 years the company must excavate all DNAPL hot spots. Oddly she allegedly then said “But to do this you need better excavations.” That makes no sense whatsoever hence I expect that Mr. Roe unintentionally misquoted her. Likely she said “But to do this you need better investigations.”
Steve Quigley was also slightly misquoted as he supposedly said that he defended the excavations his firm had done. In fact he was defending the investigations his firm had already done, not their excavations which weren’t complete for another two months. Or was he ?The project involving the two east side waste pits, RPE 4 & 5 had been underway for the previous 12 days and 350 truckloads of waste had been removed from the ground according to the K-W Record`s, John Roe who interviewed Uniroyal and personnel. Is it possible that contrary to what we were told in December 1993 and early January 1994 that in fact the DNAPLs at Retention Pond-5 (RPW-5) and Tar Pit West-2 (TPW-2) were actually excavated first in order to ensure there was room for them in the Envirodome before the massive excavations at RPE 4 & 5. Of course the problem with this scenario is that allegedly the MOE had not yet approved the Uniroyal and CRA plan regarding DNAPL removal. That did not come until the December 10, 1993 letter from the MOE advising Uniroyal and the other stakeholders, including APT; that the MOE approved CRA’s final DNAPL report. That date, December 10, 1993 was bizarre for two reasons. First it was within ten or twelve days of the completion of the removal from the ground of 46,000 tonnes of toxic waste. That waste was put all inside the Envirodome and it was many tonnes in excess of both the original estimates as well as the planned capacity of the Envirodome. Therefore any last minute additions to the in-ground excavations could have ended up without a home other than back in the ground. Secondly as the excavations of RPE 4 & 5 started in mid September, how believable is it that the MOE just made up their mind on December 10, 1993 to give Uniroyal and CRA the go ahead to excavate RPW-5 and TPW-2 as they were looking at the conclusion of this major project?
Sylvia then at the end of Mr. Roe’s September 28, 1993 article said the magic words which should have been enough just over two months later to have gotten her a permanent leave of absence from APT. In response to the comment that the Ontario Ministry of Environment needed to approve Uniroyal’s DNAPL plan she stated that she’d “be very surprised if they found this report adequate.”
In fact the Ontario Ministry of Environment and Climate Change found Conestoga Rovers latest DNAPL report to be just fine. Not only did they ignore criticism, advice, and outrage from both the Region of Waterloo and APT earlier in the year but they apparently overlooked their own issues with the previous Dames & Moore report. This opposition was full blown in February 1993 prior to two events. Firstly CRA hadn’t delivered their new report that was supposed to vastly improve on the highly criticized effort by Brian Beatty and secondly the Region of Waterloo hadn’t yet settled with either the MOE or Uniroyal in regards to the Region’s costs for hiring consultants, drilling wells and building the new pipeline from Waterloo to St. Jacobs and Elmira.
I was appalled at the MOE’s rollover. That was disgusting. What came next however was so much worse. APT rolled over and bellied up. It was done by Sylvia Berg, APT’s vice-president. She didn’t defend the MOE’s December 10, 1993 decision and letter. She didn’t condemn it either. When I expressed my disgust that the again inadequate DNAPL report had been accepted despite APT’s written and well researched criticisms of Uniroyal’s (CRA) second effort she had absolutely no comment. I pointed out to her that it was herself, Glenys McMullen, and me who had worked so hard on preparing a well thought out, well written critique in August 1993. She was unmoved to the point of not even agreeing that APT needed to take some steps of some sort to protest this blatant cover up of what Susan Bryant fifteen months earlier had referred to as the “…most serious environmental problem at Uniroyal.”
Sylvia was a stone wall of non-communication so I approached Richard Clausi, another APT coordinator. He wanted to know the details and the specifics regarding the DNAPL reports including the critique that Glenys McMullen, Sylvia Berg, and I had written. He too was shocked as he began to understand the blatancy of the MOE’s December 10, 1993 acceptance of CRA’s DNAPL report. There was absolutely no reasonable explanation offered by either the MOE or by Sylvia Berg. Richard called for a meeting of the APT coordinators for early January as everyone were overwhelmed with Christmas and family commitments by what was now late December 1993.
I had done the bulk of the reading and research necessary for APT’s latest DNAPL critique just as I had for the previous one. Both Sylvia Berg and her friend Glenys McMullen had cheerfully assisted with editing and writing APT’s formal critique of CRA’s latest woefully inadequate DNAPL report. Both of them were fully on-side with my conclusions, at least to my face that is. To say that I was shocked by Sylvia’s refusal to seriously discuss the MOE’s about face is an understatement. I did have a moment’s pause however when after APT’s critique was fully prepared and typed, Sylvia had me sign it which I immediately did. I then waited for her to sign it as well. Nothing. I said to her that both she and Glenys McMullen deserved the credit as well for their efforts and input. Oh no she said, I did the difficult work it was better for just me to sign it which I had already done. I found that peculiar but obviously couldn’t force her to sign it.
Richard and I had prepared handouts for the APT coordinators regarding the history of the DNAPL investigations at Uniroyal. Obviously other than me and Susan Bryant who was still in India, none of the coordinators had read any of the DNAPL reports. While I was extraordinarily concerned with what I viewed as Sylvia Berg’s bizarre behaviour and attitude, at no point did I even remotely entertain the thought that she was co-opted or worse. In fact I later expressed to Richard and another confidant that I feared that Sylvia was having either some kind of breakdown or that she was in the midst of two possible personal, health crises. The second concern may very well have been accurate but that did not explain her rock solid performance at the coordinators meeting. Also Richard had by then received the previously mentioned correspondence from Pat Potter of Dunnville which advised that Sylvia had sent a letter of support for Uniroyal to the CCPA.
I did my best to explain to the coordinators the seriousness of the MOE’s rollover on the DNAPL issue. At the same time Sylvia reassured them that she was monitoring and observing the situation and while the CRA’s conclusions were not perfect they really weren’t that bad. Some DNAPLS had been removed from RPW-5 and TPW-2 in the last half of December (1993) and more might be done in the future. I pointed out the APT critique which only had my signature, not Sylvia’s, nor Glenys’s at the bottom of it. Sylvia was calm and reassuring regarding DNAPLs yet aggressive and hostile regarding Richard and I having questioned her and forcing this meeting unnecessarily in her opinion. Then Richard, while in hindsight 100% correct, made in my opinion a tactical error. He threw down Pat Potter’s very strong suspicions that Sylvia was co-opted based upon her letter to the CCPA. Again in hindsight I was way too slow to come to the same conclusion but this was neither the time nor the place to accuse her. Now Sylvia had what she wanted which was less of a technical argument regarding the DNAPL cover up and hence some appropriate response from APT, and more of a personal attack upon her integrity. The APT coordinators now had a simpler choice. To a certain extent this DNAPL debate had turned into a popularity contest. The coordinators, just like me, certainly didn’t want to believe that Sylvia was a plant, a mole, or some kind of a spy for Uniroyal Chemical Ltd. The debate was over and they voted to support Sylvia’s doing nothing regarding the Ministry rolling over on DNAPLS.
That could have and should have been the end but that’s when I really got a good look at Sylvia Berg. Having won the DNAPL discussion she jumped all over me. Alan she stated was to be removed from the APT representatives on UPAC. She could no longer share a table or be a working colleague of mine after I had attacked her integrity. No such thing happened of course because up till then I still didn’t believe it. Certainly indirectly as Richard and I had forced the meeting regarding an APT response to the DNAPL cover up, he and I were acting in concert. I have never blamed Richard for speaking what he believed to be true and in hindsight he was the only one at that meeting who did come to the right conclusion about Sylvia. After Sylvia’s ultimatum Richard immediately resigned from APT. I was stunned. As surprised as I was by Richard’s resignation, the tipping point for me was Sylvia’s aggressive stance of removing me as one of the APT representatives at the UPAC table. That was on the face of it ridiculous as I was by far their most proven and reliable technical reader and had proven that with the Stan Feenstra scandal that resulted in the “Consolidation” of Brian Beatty and company. If other APT members had jumped in right there, things could still have been salvaged. Salvaged for APT’s and the public’s benefit. It didn’t happen. I resigned along with Richard. A week or two later Esther Thur one of the founders of APT resigned as well. She had been attending UPAC meetings regularly and knew I was the real deal. She joined Rich Clausi and I as members of the Elmira Environmental Hazards Team named after and with the approval of Pat Potter, of the original Environmental Hazards Team in Dunnville, Ontario.
Hindsight is often twenty-twenty. What Sylvia lacked in technical prowess she made up for in understanding people. Did she know and hope that by making her off of APT at UPAC meetings ultimatum to me, after winning the DNAPL debate, that I would likely say to hell with you, I’m out of here? Was that her plan from the beginning? Was this the same thing as the impossible condition given to Susan Rupert by the MOE that UPAC meetings had to be private and behind closed doors knowing that while Susan Rupert would never go for it, other more amenable to persuasion APT members would? In other words by making an unreasonable and ridiculous demand could you induce the most involved and honest members to say that’s it, I’m done? This can only work if the manipulators are confident that the less involved citizens will not aggressively intervene and stop it.
There is one other question to be asked? Was Sylvia’s behaviour all about getting rid of another person she viewed as a threat to her (and Susan Bryant) being the front and centre APT spokespersons? Was this all about ego? Why did she set me up the way she did on the black and white DNAPL matter? Was she working along with either Uniroyal or the MOE on this as well? Certainly I had announced my presence loudly and clearly to UPAC and them with the Stan Feenstra/Brian Beatty affair. Up until very recently (June 2018) I had always felt that Susan and Darrol Bryant were thousands of miles away in India and totally isolated from these happenings. Just recently in conversations with Susan Rupert I have been disabused of that notion. They were in touch regularly with both Susan Rupert and Sylvia Berg. Hence they could have and should have intervened at the time but instead chose to let this disaster play out.
In a January 12, 1994 K-W Record article written by John Roe, Sylvia Berg was quoted as saying “…APT was generally satisfied with the excavation of the DNAPLs that took place last year.” Compare that to her quote of September 28, 1993 and with virtually zero explanation for her turnaround or the MOE’s; there was but one conclusion for me. “The fix was in.” I had stated that on the day I stopped working at Varnicolor Chemical. It was apparent again. With the benefit of much further evidence and data over the ensuing twenty-four years I have become convinced that as early as 1993, at the least, that APT’s President and Vice-President were making private deals with both Uniroyal and the Ontario Ministry of Environment behind APT members backs. This includes behind the backs of the general membership as well as behind the backs of their fellow APT coordinators. This same thing occurred after 2000 when Sylvia Berg and family had departed Elmira and Susan Bryant improbably teamed up with councillor Pat McLean. That pair then went on to making deals with the MOE and or Uniroyal, on UPAC/CPAC’s part, but again behind their backs. They got caught doing that by me in regards to the proposed new Ammonia Treatment System and that and the newest resurgence of DNAPL interest at Uniroyal was the reason that that pair manipulated the old CPAC to get rid of me. It is difficult to say whether either Sylvia or Susan actually felt that they knew best and were making private deals to save time and was in the public interest. None of the three of them on their own were remotely qualified to be doing so. There is both strength and common sense in a group of honest citizens debating issues. The original APT with Susan Rupert, Sandra Bray and Esther Thur believed in decisions by consensus. Sylvia, Pat, and Susan clearly did not. They routinely and surreptitiously usurped the group’s authority for their own, whether from APT or from CPAC, up until they got their 4 1/2 year comeuppance in early 2011 which I shall describe later.
Back to January 1994. Sylvia Berg sold APT and the public down the drain regarding DNAPLS. I knew shortly after and for ever more that this was the biggest reason for APT’s decline of legitimate influence from that point onwards. While Uniroyal and the MOE had likely played games to get APT to join UPAC in the first place, nevertheless they had to be careful that other APT members didn’t catch on. After the APT members skated on the second inadequate DNAPL report Uniroyal knew they were home free. They had two inside persons that they could count on to being amenable to making deals. Just like the Ontario MOE would.
I was disappointed with the other APT members after January 1994. True I had been successfully manipulated and fooled by Sylvia as had they but at the least I expected phone calls from some of them commiserating. Other than Esther Thur it didn’t happen.
The Region of Waterloo, APT, GRCA, MOE, and UPAC all were so pleased with the completed excavation of RPE-4 & 5 that they turned a blind eye to the token removal of DNAPL at RPW-5 and TPW-2. The other reason for most of these groups backing off likely had to do with Uniroyal settling financially with the Region and with Woolwich Township, earlier in March 1993 prior to the start of the east side excavations. Knowing Uniroyal’s hard- nosed, private bargaining skills I expect that they asked for and tacitly at least, received a pass on onerous DNAPL removal at this time.
The RPW-5 excavation was a small corner of the entire pit. Similarly we were told that at TPW-2, free phase DNAPL was clearly visible and left behind. The excuse was that it was mixed in with municipal garbage from M2 located right beside TPW-2 and Uniroyal claimed that they weren’t responsible for the contents of the former municipal landfill which they now owned. Not responsible well describes the situation and the MOE were full fledged members of the not responsible club.
ENDNOTES for Chapter 3
24 Bob Burtt, “Region launches water lawsuits”, Kitchener-Waterloo Record, October 2, 1990
25 Ontario Min. Of Environment, Drinking Water Surveillance Program, ELMIRA WELL SUPPLY, Annual
Report 1989, March 1991,Table 1, p.11.
26 CH2M Hill, ELMIRA-ST. JACOBS WATER SUPPLY PROJECT, VOLUME II- ELMIRA AQIFER SYSTEM:
CONTAMINANT PLUME MAPPING AND SOURCE CONTAMINATION, March 1991, p.102.
27 Bob Burtt, “Ministry misled, Elmira group says”, Kitchener-Waterloo Record, September 22, 1992
28 Bob Burtt, “Uniroyal may face charges in cleanup”, Kitchener-Waterloo Record, October 15, 1992
29 Bob Burtt, “MOE presses Uniroyal for chemical search”, Kitchener-Waterloo Record, December 1,
30 Bob Burtt, “Uniroyal officials doubt all chemicals can be cleaned up”, Kitchener-Waterloo Record,
December 11, 1992
31 “Chemical Producers ads do not tell the full story, Pollution Probe says”, Elmira Independent,
January 25, 1993