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.
Wednesday, September 18, 2019
ELMIRA WATER WOES: THE TRIUMPH OF CORRUPTION, DECEIT, AND CITIZEN BETRAYAL
TABLE OF CONTENTS
33....Upper Aquifer Containment and Treatment System
34....January 1995 Public Meeting
This year, 1994, was a very difficult year. APT had lost three of their best researchers, record keepers, speakers, and activists. Fortunately, the public had not. These departures, of course, followed the huge loss of Susan Rupert a couple of years earlier. It was not, however, to be the last major personnel loss suffered by this citizens’ group. In fact the huge loss that occurred in 2005, was APT member Dr. Henry Regier, whom we talked about late in Chapter One. I am critical of the leadership since 2010 and the general membership, only now in 2018. That said, did I have it all figured out in 1995 much less 2005? I did not, therefore my criticism of APT members not stepping up in 1991 for Susan Rupert’s departure, again in 1994 for Rich Clausi, Esther Thur, and me and then finally in 2005 when Dr. Regier resigned from APT must be considered in that light. Particularly so when I realize that I was an APT member in 1991 and did not inquire diligently about Susan Rupert’s departure. Maybe I’m wrong and there were APT coordinators or general members who smelled something as Dr. Regier did and either said so or simply left APT themselves. By the way I have a confession to make. I was tipped off in 2005 that Susan Bryant was not whom she appeared to be. While I totally respected the source of that information I simply believed that the person advising me was wrong. Interestingly Susan Bryant herself confirmed to me at that time that this particular APT member believed that she was co-opted.
Esther Thur continued her work compiling reports and newspaper stories and filing them in the Elmira Library. She did this until her death in 2004. For four years her work was on behalf of the public and on behalf of APT. For the next ten and a half years her work in this regard was also on behalf of the public as well as on the behalf of the Elmira Environmental Hazards Team (EH-Team). Rich, Henry, and I miss Esther to this day. We do not miss the APT leadership taking the credit for the bulk of Esther’s work and claiming it as being under APT’s purview.
Already the media were beginning to back off. They, just like the citizens in general, could only absorb so much data and facts and only react in shock and anger a finite number of times to the ongoing efforts by our authorities to portray a professional, comprehensive cleanup of the aquifers, air, and surface water in the “Gig”. The Elmira Independent was doing an excellent job of covering UPAC meetings and reporting on them. Bob and Carol Verdun owned the newspaper and dedicated much of their resources to the Elmira environmental story. In 1990 they won the Michener Award along with their reporter, Roddy Turpin, for “meritorious public service in journalism”. The K-W Record may have missed attending a few UPAC meetings but they were still heavily involved and reporting fairly regularly. The other local news media, including CKCO-TV, were selective about their coverage.
On March 12, 1994, Uniroyal had an accidental release of chlorine. It passed through Elmira as the usual prevailing west to east winds that took most of Uniroyal’s toxic stench immediately out of town were reversed this day. The cloud was small but was just above ground level. Some residents reported stinging eyes, strong chlorine odours, and respiratory distress.32 When the volunteer Woolwich Fire Department went to Uniroyal in response to complaints, they were stonewalled. Uniroyal advised them that the company had not had any spills or releases to the air. Kieran Kelly, District Fire Chief, was not amused when the truth came out later that day. This behaviour was not an acceptable way for a self-declared responsible chemical company to operate. Further, company and MOE statements over the ensuing days advising residents that the spill was minor and at no time had there been any health risk whatsoever to residents were problematic. Any chlorine leak is potentially fatal. Chlorine is the active ingredient in mustard gas that was used to lethal effect during the First World War.
Later that month of March 1994, Uniroyal decided to come clean on another outstanding issue. Uniroyal folks, likely Jeff Merriman (Jeff) and Dwight Este (Dwight), announced to UPAC members that there was a sub-surface pool known as light non aqueous phase liquid (LNAPL) floating on the water table in the south-west area of their site. They estimated that the pool could be between 10,000 and 40,000 gallons and that it consisted primarily of toluene. They believed that it had over a period of years leaked from the Uniroyal Building #15. UPAC members were stunned at this revelation.
Questions were asked and the shock and anger began to build in the meeting as UPAC members heard Uniroyal’s answers. Yes, Uniroyal had known about this pool of toluene for at least the last eight months. No, they had not informed the MOE right away. Once informed, the MOE did not see any need to immediately inform the public advisory committee. No, the MOE did not order Uniroyal representatives to inform UPAC. No, the MOE had not taken any emergency steps to immediately stop the groundwater transport of this pool of LNAPL from discharging into the “Gig”.
Uniroyal was asked why its representatives had not informed UPAC, about these LNAPLS immediately, Uniroyal personnel responded that they did not under the advice of their lawyers. Well. At that point Sylvia Berg, on behalf of APT, stepped up and totally blistered Uniroyal representatives for their behaviour, their deceit, and their hiding behind their lawyers. She lectured them and the MOE and it was a beautiful to see and to hear.
In hindsight, it was exactly what the CPAC of 2011 to 2015 had been doing, and as accurate and appropriate as it was, that CPAC was seventeen plus years later and our politicians were more willing to attack the CPAC messengers and defend Uniroyal as the news media and public interest and support was so much lessened. In fact, while Susan Bryant on occasion over the decades would take a strip off of Uniroyal in frustration, the only other APT member I can remember doing so in a big way was Shannon Purves-Smith. At a public CPAC meeting Ms. Purves-Smith took Jeff Merriman to task and basically screamed at him about the company’s incessant talk and incessant delays versus the company actually doing anything.
LNAPL as its name implies is a liquid that floats on water and does not immediately dissolve into it. The easiest and most visible example of LNAPL would be a spill of gas or oil on the surface of the ocean. Despite the massive size of the ocean, and hence, its ability to eventually dissolve the contaminant; the gas or oil can be readily seen to float on its surface. The same effect happens below the surface of the ground when the oil, gas, or, in this case, solvent descends through the sub-surface and then contacts the surface of the saturated soil, namely the water table. This LNAPL migrates with the flow of the shallow groundwater and discharges along with it into the nearest discharge point, which is likely to be a creek or river. In Uniroyal’s case, LNAPLS would discharge into the Creek (“Gig”), which runs through the Uniroyal property. At the same time, the LNAPL is also slowly dissolving into the groundwater that it is floating on. This slow dissolving is similar to the behaviour of DNAPL, which being dense, has moved through the aquifer and likely is at or near the bottom of the aquifer and above the low permeability clay or silt aquitard. The last point regarding LNAPL is that it can often be seen and identified as “seeps” along the banks of the discharge area. In other words, this raw product whether oil, gasoline, or solvent can often be seen and even smelled along the Creek banks where it has slowly flowed along with the groundwater and then discharged into the Creek.
Obviously, just like DNAPLS, LNAPLs are a terrible contaminant to discover on any site. Combined with all the other issues at Uniroyal, this was a devastating environmental matter. CPAC members were advised that the good news was that LNAPLs were much more easily removed and remediated due to their location than DNAPLS. Once again CPAC were played by Uniroyal and the MOE in multiple ways. Firstly, they had no serious interest in removing this contaminant in any kind of expeditious manner. Secondly, the claim that they had only known about it for eight months or so was highly suspect. When I worked at Varnicolor from 1988 to 1990, I knew without consultants, the MOE, or any other experts that Varnicolor had LNAPLS in its subsurface. While I didn’t know them by that name, I certainly knew that any excavation for a posthole or anything else below the water table was apt to quickly fill up with visible and smelly solvents. Those were LNAPLs. Additionally, the Uniroyal site had been operating on both sides of the “Gig” for nearly fifty years. Of course, they had seen and smelled these discharges to the Creek and they and their consultants knew damn well what it was. Such purveyors of self-serving misinformation.
Upper Aquifer Containment and Treatment System
CPAC learned of yet another betrayal of the public trust in June 1994. This one was truly unbelievable but after what the company had gotten away with seven months earlier in regards to DNAPLS, CPAC shouldn’t have been surprised. There was the October/November 1991 sweetheart deal between the MOE and Uniroyal, which fallout both had survived. Clearly, the matter of the Upper Aquifer Containment and Treatment System (UACTS) had been under private discussion between the MOE and Uniroyal exactly as the DNAPL issue had been. Having all the parties including APT roll over and belly up on the DNAPL issue had clearly emboldened Uniroyal.
The November 4, 1991 Control Order seemed very clear that there was to be complete hydraulic containment of the Uniroyal site, in all aquifers. Despite this, as of June 1994, the most highly contaminated upper or shallow aquifer was to be hydraulically contained in the south-west quadrant of the site only. The other three quadrants, namely the north-west, north-east and south- east were not going to have containment even attempted. Therefore, but one quarter only of the ongoing groundwater discharge directly to the creek would be stopped. At UPAC, we all demanded to know why and how this could be permitted. The rationale provided to us was as simple as it was false. Steve Quigley an engineer at CRA verbally suggested that 97.5% of all on-site contaminants discharged to the Creek via the south-west quadrant. That figure appeared ridiculous upon the face of it, and, in fact history has so confirmed. Unfortunately, history took twenty more years and Woolwich politicians stepped in quickly in late 2014 and through much of 2015 to save Uniroyal’s (Chemtura) bacon. As the east side pits that were filled over time with the same toxics as the west side had been overflowing and soaking through the bottom; then clearly the shallow aquifer on the east side of the creek had to be grossly contaminated as well. How could this self-serving and financially rewarding plan to Uniroyal possibly protect the Creek adequately from upper aquifer discharges? It was never explained logically or any other way. APT walked in disgust from UPAC. Richard Clausi, Esther Thur, and I cheered their departure. Surely, the other UPAC members would begin to understand now exactly how corrupt the whole process was. Of the other parties at UPAC, only one other was greatly offended and disturbed. That party was the Region of Waterloo. My guess now is that they had not been let in on the games that Uniroyal and the MOE were playing on the east side and had initiated back in the mid- 1980s, prior to the well shutdowns. The other UPAC members seemed to glory in their own ignorance. By the way, the EH-Team representatives of Richard, Esther, and I stood with APT on this matter. While we had left APT the previous January, we were focused on the public interest and the UACTS appeared to be yet another near mortal wound to that interest.
In hindsight of twenty-four years, I have to ask these four questions. Was this an intentional double betrayal by Uniroyal of both the public interest and of APT leadership? Had Susan Bryant and Sylvia Berg been expecting good things of the UACTS and its stated protection of the Creek in exchange for their selling out on the DNAPL issues? Or, was the grossly unacceptable UACTS an attempt by Uniroyal to rid themselves of Susan and Sylvia once and for all? Were Uniroyal hoping that, having blatantly betrayed everyone who cared about the Creek, APT would throw in the towel and walk away from their involvement? If that was the plan, then they were disappointed. The EH-Team continued working on and so did APT.
Neither Uniroyal representatives nor the MOE have ever displayed any public sign of shame no matter how outrageous their behaviour or how badly their credibility has been tarnished and put on public display. To say they have thick skins doesn’t even begin to describe them. Therefore, while on the face of it, it was simply a blip on the radar, the timing of their next mistake was exquisite. After making the outlandish and outrageous initial claim that 97.5% of all the on-site contaminants were being discharged into the “Gig” from the south-west corner of the Uniroyal site, they then had an oopsy moment. This miscalculation was neither the first nor the last. The corollary of making ridiculous and self-serving mathematical predictions is that it needs hard evidence to support it too. Not only could CRA not do that, but then they had to admit that their initial calculations as to the total volume of groundwater being discharged from the south-west quadrant wasn’t even close to the actual quantity. Essentially they were going to have to be prepared to hydraulically contain and treat ten to twenty times more groundwater than they had originally planned. Self-serving mistakes like this from consultants who brook no criticism and no suggestions from the public are hard to swallow. CRA representatives also advised UPAC that this error was going to delay their implementation of hydraulic containment in the shallow aquifer. In fact, it was another three years before they finally completed hydraulically containing all of one quarter of the upper aquifer on the Uniroyal site.
APT really had no choice in the matter when they resigned from UPAC and walked away from formal membership. UPAC members were blatantly biased in favour of Uniroyal and were clearly going through the motions of environmental stewardship. Other than the Region, Susan Bryant, and me, almost nobody else was reading the reports much less doing any research or work preparing for the monthly meetings. Initially, I thought that perhaps the APT leadership were simply following the EH-Team’s lead as members of the EH-Team had resigned first from APT and then from UPAC in January 1994. Further thought, however, makes it clear that the UACTS was an intentional provocation and failure by Uniroyal designed to provoke some action from the APT leadership. Again, in hindsight, the APT general membership had gotten far too comfortable in reading each month about their representatives kicking MOE and Uniroyal butt at the UPAC meetings . They felt that that was enough and it wasn’t. Even if APT leadership had been tipped off by Uniroyal or the MOE about the east side diversion of contaminated groundwater and surface water, they couldn’t have rested on that information to justify doing nothing about the in-your-face provocation of Uniroyal and the MOE by ignoring the November 4, 1991 Control Order demanding full hydraulic containment in all aquifers. I wonder if Uniroyal actually hoped that Susan Bryant and Sylvia Berg would realize that they’d been played and, out of embarrassment, either formally resign from APT or simply throw in the towel and walk away. When they didn’t, I expect that Uniroyal concluded that they were stuck with them and, therefore, returned to making plans as to how best control them. I do recall being advised in the early days, possibly by Susan Bryant, that Uniroyal had psychological experts attending public meetings, attempting to gain insights into the mind sets and motivations of various citizen activists present.
Both members of APT and the EH-Team attended public UPAC meetings for the next six years without being formal members. APT representatives rejoined UPAC in January 2000 after there had been discussions the previous month on how to improve UPAC. The EH-Team members were invited to join by Art Fletcher and as I had seen such an improvement in UPAC, especially in light of their shellacking Uniroyal over their disgusting fumigations of the Duke Street residents, it was an easy decision. The wrong one unfortunately.
January 1995 Public Meeting
The public meeting in January 1995, held in the old recreation centre on Snyder Avenue in Elmira, was magnificent. One hundred and fifty people attended and the majority of them were there to say no to Uniroyal’s inadequate plans for the Upper Aquifer Containment and Treatment System. There were a couple of reasons why the public were more upset over the UACTS scam than the DNAPL scam. First, the DNAPL scam had only the EH-Team in opposition to the tiny DNAPL excavations at RPW-5 and TPW-2. With the minimal UACTS pumping, there was also the Region of Waterloo and APT in opposition. The MOE and the Grand River Conservation Authority (GRCA) had originally been unhappy with Uniroyal’s plans but then inexplicably changed their minds. Certainly, whatever facts changed their minds were never provided for public consumption. Hence, in all likelihood, they had an odour to them. Other participants included environmental groups up and down the Grand River. They included Chuck and Pat Potter from Dunnville, Ontario at the mouth of the Grand River at Lake Erie. The Cambridge Pesticide Action Group (CPAG) as well as Groundwater Alert was represented. Bonnie Walters of the CPAG stated that Uniroyal’s plan was “…like shutting the door to keep the house warm when the window isn’t closed. It’s ludicrous. It’s a dead loss.” Brenda Thompson of Groundwater Alert also spoke against the proposed UACTS. A number of Indigenous groups along the Grand River were represented by Norm Jacobs of Brantford. Both Mike Murray of the Region of Waterloo and Dave Belanger, hydrogeologist, on behalf of the Region, spoke against Uniroyal’s plan. Mr. Belanger of the consulting firm CH2M HILL came right out and stated that CRA’s plans were the cheapest, least effective option. Richard Clausi and I also spoke publicly against Uniroyal’s plan. I indicated that there were higher concentrations of some Uniroyal chemicals in the north-west corner of its site than there were in the south-west area which was to be contained with Uniroyal’s plan. These chemicals included chlorobenzene, benzene, and phenols.
The clearest comments, in my opinion, came from Pat Potter. She stated “I am waiting for the Uniroyal trials. You have committed a heinous crime and you will answer for it.” She also bluntly told Uniroyal “you have destroyed an aquifer.” She then directly addressed Hardy Wong, the Director of the West Central Region of the Ontario Ministry of Environment. She stated “If you do not have the strength of character to fight Uniroyal, resign."33
Susan Bryant of APT advised that the proposed south-west quadrant containment would only contain 34.1% of the contaminated groundwater versus the now alleged 95% claimed by Conestoga Rovers and Associates.34
Bob Verdun, owner of the Elmira Independent, spoke at the public meeting and suggested that it was time that both Uniroyal and the MOE started paying attention to the testimony of their own employees as to what went on.35
Ken Reger, a citizen who provided testimony at the early EAB hearings also spoke at this public meeting. He had great concerns with the former landfill, M2, located on Uniroyal’s south-west corner. As a former Uniroyal employee, he knew that the M2 area was routinely used for toxic industrial waste disposal by Uniroyal.36
Pro Uniroyal Woolwich Township councillors all fell in line with Uniroyal and the MOE, as did CEAC (without Murray Haight’s leadership) and the GRCA. Keep in mind that CEAC were a committee of Woolwich Township Council. What an example not to ever follow in the future regardless of individual honest members. That these groups had zero verifiable facts to rely on did not dissuade them from their support of Uniroyal in the least. I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt by suggesting that they had zero verifiable facts to rely on. After all, I seriously doubt that Uniroyal and the MOE actually shared with them what I deem as either the unethical actions or the likely illegal actions that they had taken a decade earlier on the east side in order to artificially lessen the concentrations of toxins in the east side groundwater. These actions did not come to light until 2014 courtesy of the last CPAC membership.
You can also rest assured that these various self-serving bodies did not have the courage to come right out and advise the honest citizens who attended the public meeting that they were wasting their time. Despite an excellent turnout and the opinions of both informed groups and individuals, the MOE and Uniroyal seemed to me to have no interest in either telling the truth or changing their minds.
Shirley Rennie, formerly a reporter for the Elmira Independent, wrote an article in the Record in 1995 about Fergus songwriters Doug and Melanie Stronach. In it, Ms. Rennie includes a sample of the lyrics to a song they wrote about Uniroyal Chemical:
“Angus and me on the bank of the creek with a chemical cocktail and faith in the weak
Ministry mobile up on the hill sucking in air for the media spill
It’s all clear now they say, all clear now.”
We did have both songwriters and cartoonists help us on occasion and often the products of their fertile imaginations were far more effective than a thousand pages of technical critiques of the pseudo science we were often deluged in. One cartoon showed dead cattle along the Creek with the caption “Die Oxen”. That of course refers to the highly toxic chemical dioxin.
In August 1995, Bob Burtt of the Record reported my efforts in Elmira. The article is titled “Abrasive methods get results environmental activist finds.” While I knew his article about me was coming I certainly didn’t know that the headline would be quite so …..odd, strong, off. If I really thought that abrasive methods would get results I would have been ten times more abrasive than I ever was at any time. I found the title very odd considering that I viewed Mr. Burtt strongly as a supporter of the citizens as well
as a friend and colleague of Susan Bryant. Therefore while I had some concerns about the tone of the title I didn’t think that it signified problems down the road or was a symptom of something else going on behind my back. I was wrong, alas again. I simply never saw coming what was planned for a very long time.
Bob Burtt quoted me saying “When I got involved with Uniroyal it dawned on me that what I saw at Varnicolor Chemical was not the exception to the rule, but the way the Ministry of Environment treats all polluters."37 Truer words have never been said. Make no mistake of the immense advantage professional liars, without shame or remorse, in positions of power and authority, have over ordinary citizens. We simply don’t think like they do. We believe that other than the rare white lie to protect someone, that lying is inherently bad, wrong, disrespectful and deceitful. These professional spin doctors on the other hand are convinced that lying is an inherently useful, inexpensive tool to save them money in the long run. Therefore, if it saves the corporation and its shareholders money, then it is intrinsically good to fib. Wow. This is part of the reality of dealing with these corporate-focused individuals. Hence, moral suasion simply will never work with them. Often the only reason that many corporate defenders do something beneficial for the environment is to save money, especially if it costs nothing to give them a public relations boost. Otherwise, it doesn’t happen. As Dave Belanger said regarding Uniroyal/CRA’s UACTS plan: “It is the cheapest, least effective plan.”
Even when citizens know categorically that corporate polluters are truth challenged and economical with the truth, we simply don’t expect polluters to always resort to lying. It seems as if it’s almost like a default position for them in my opinion. A distortion reflex is often started when a question could have negative connotations if answered truthfully. So many corporate defenders appear shameless and catching them in a bald-faced lie seems to hardly faze them. They will scream for 100% proof, proof beyond a reasonable doubt, proof that can never satisfy them or their fellow travellors. The rest of us would be mortified being caught in a blatant lie. They simply lie some more in an attempt to weaken your position. When Brian Beatty got caught red -handed by me, David Ash of Uniroyal accused me of taking Stan Feenstra’s words out of context. Any lie in a storm for professionals apparently.
Art Fletcher, UPAC member, did try on a few occasions to get both APT and the Elmira EH-Team to rejoin UPAC. I believe that his efforts were sincere and well-intentioned. The problem, of course, was that UPAC members were far and away too sympathetic to the bleating coming from Uniroyal. At some meetings, I could swear UPAC members lost sight of which party destroyed the Elmira aquifers. If I was blind in those days to the gamesmanship going on all around me, then I suppose I can now better understand the blindness on glaring display by most UPAC members in regards to Uniroyal’s activities.
In early summer of 1995, APT asked for Leave To Appeal the MOE’s Certificate of Approval for the UACTS. This action is exactly what UPAC should have been doing and, with the weight of multiple community groups and members behind them, it would have been nearly impossible for the EAB to say no. With only APT ‘s request combined with who knows what private back door communications were going on by the MOE and Uniroyal, it was hopeless. In September 1995, the EAB turned down APT’s Leave To Appeal.
In October 1995, in a Letter To The Editor of the Elmira Independent, Susan Bryant and Sylvia Berg wrote “UPAC is not pushing. It is as simple as that. UPAC has gone to sleep. However APT will not join the snore. Though we do not participate as UPAC members, APT and the EH-Team continue to attend every meeting, raising many questions that seem to fall into dead space."38 This public reference to the EH-Team by APT was unusual. It was, however, appreciated.
UPAC was set up from the start to fail as far as the public interest went. It was set up at the request of the MOE by Woolwich Council to protect the interests of Uniroyal and to give the appearance of public consultation. The membership was stacked with Woolwich councillors, former Uniroyal employees, and representatives from the Chamber of Commerce, GRCA, Waterloo Region District School Board (WRDSB), and types more interested in the status quo and restoring peace and tranquility to outraged citizens than in actually cleaning up Elmira’s contamination whether air, groundwater, surface water, or soils. These members of UPAC would accept criticism of Uniroyal but with their majority on UPAC expected to win any and all votes necessary while claiming to be concerned about the environment. As Susan Bryant said “UPAC has gone to sleep.”
In January 1996, Susan Bryant was quoted in the Record stating “the problem isn’t the lack of technical data, but the lack of political will on the ministry’s part to take a tougher stand with the company."39 This quote is very relevant particularly given the chair of TAG, Dr. Richard Jackson’s, parting words twenty years later to the Technical Advisory Group (TAG) that “…the issues are not technical issues they are public policy issues."40 In other words, the scientists and experts know what is needed to clean up the Creek and the Elmira aquifers; it’s simply that the politicians and political bureaucrats keep getting in the way of that cleanup.
I was quoted in the Elmira Independent in March 1996 stating that in reference to the Region of Waterloo, the MOE, APT and the EH-Team, that these bodies “…will all inform Uniroyal, their consultant CRA and UPAC that Uniroyal’s proposals are completely inadequate. In an honest process, Uniroyal would be forced to make some changes or concessions to attempt to satisfy at least some of the criticism. But none are ever forthcoming."41
On January 6, 1997, the UACTS began pumping. Public outcry against it and public consultation demanding more were simply ignored. Of course, various promises were made suggesting that if the Creek didn’t improve, then more would be done. If MOE written conditions and orders could be blatantly ignored, then how much weight could we put to anything the MOE promised us?
Later in the month, CPAC received the news that Uniroyal had yet again failed a *Responsible Care verification process with the Canadian Chemical Producer`s Association. While good news, it felt very risky relying on the good intentions of the chemical industry. We felt that the whole process was frankly a joke and, if and when Uniroyal were ever certified, it would be a damning indictment of the CCPA.
By October 1997, discussions were underway regarding the future of the Envirodome. UPAC members showed their true colours in their disrespect towards Eco Logic, an environmental cleanup company located in Rockwood, Ontario. They had a chemical system to break down extremely toxic compounds. Uniroyal had obtained a time extension permitting them to leave their wastes in the Envirodome until 1999. They were in 1997 looking at various options including leaving their wastes permanently in the Envirodome if they could get MOE permission. There were various proposals and suggestions debated at UPAC including the high tech solution offered by Eco Logic. UPAC members refused to allow Eco Logic the opportunity to make a presentation. Truly unbelievable ignorance and arrogance. This decision was after Esther Thur of the EH-Team reminded UPAC that they had already heard from Grace Dearborn about bioremediation, so why not hear from Eco Logic. Perhaps the answer was that Grace Dearborn was suggested and favoured by Uniroyal and CRA. I’ve been advised that a little later in the process to empty the Envirodome that Eco Logic was given another opportunity, but were not able to step-up due to either management changes or technology not quite ready to go. Based on the clear bias against them by most UPAC members and Uniroyal, I am suspicious of Eco Logic`s sudden “voluntary” withdrawal at the later date.
I guess Uniroyal management gave their vassals their marching orders on the matter. It was Uniroyal who initially wanted to sell the idea of land farming to Elmira residents. Land farming meant bioremediation or spreading the company’s wastes on the ground surface on the east side of the Uniroyal property and adding water and amendments to stimulate bacterial growth to break down the chemical composition of the wastes. This idea fortunately went nowhere. The odours would have been much worse than they had been in 1993 when RPE 4 & 5 were initially excavated and put into the Envirodome.
A major reason Uniroyal’s plan for permanent entombment in the Envirodome went nowhere can be credited to two Elmira citizens, Jan Ebert and Barb Zupko. They gathered 1,000 names on a petition opposing Uniroyal’s “do nothing” plans. As this petition was successful we should have attempted that method of mobilizing community opposition more often. APT and the EH-Team failed to do so.
Despite APT and the EH-Team not being official members of UPAC with status at UPAC meetings, we were treated courteously and respectfully as far as being able to make comments or ask questions at the meetings. Then, of course, we were ignored.
In October 1997, I was quoted in the Elmira Independent to Uniroyal’s suggestion of simply leaving the toxic wastes in the Envirodome with the comment that “That is their favourite. They are masters of the do nothing strategy."42 Susan Bryant was quoted as saying, “To take it up and put it back into the ground is insane. It is absolutely unacceptable to take soil off site. It would show that we have learned absolutely nothing."43 I agreed with Susan’s comments both then and now. When push came to shove, however, Susan was a little more practical and a little less ideological. In fact, that is exactly what the Excavated Wastes Working Group (EWWG) eventually approved.
The EWWG was a sub-committee of UPAC and included Susan Bryant and Pat Mclean. The Elmira Environmental Hazards Team was not invited to join. The members of the EH-Team (Richard Clausi, Esther Thur, and I) however, were slowly learning how things worked. Absolutely nothing good was going to come from this committee any more than what had come from UPAC over the years. Uniroyal, of course, set the committee`s terms of reference. There were to be but three options namely: 1) do nothing, i.e. permanent entombment; 2) on-site destruction; 3) landfill the wastes off-site. All the discussions and negotiations were held privately on the Uniroyal property. Richard Clausi of the EH-Team stated in February 2, 1998 in the Elmira Independent regarding this process that “It’s a secret meeting on their property. If the discussions are going to be held, they should be held in public. We do not believe in this kind of secret negotiations."44
Very shortly afterwards, Uniroyal had a change of heart in regards to the EH-Team joining the secret talks. They invited us to join. Our response was that since both the public and the media were excluded, then we, the EH-Team must exclude ourselves as well. All other parties invited including APT, attended. It’s difficult to say no when the captain of the football team asks you to dance.
Lois Gibbs of Love Canal in the 1990s stated that politicians had to be forced to “do the right thing and the “right” needs to be defined by the community, not the company.” There were a couple of exceptions to those Woolwich Township Councillors such as Bram Hollman and Deanna Zenger. Overall, the situation was not good. Over and over again it seems to me the self-serving polluter and his client driven consultants shaped the choices and made all the decisions. Unsurprisingly, very little favoured the community’s best well being.
Uniroyal decision-makers were masters of the art of deflection. Whenever pressure got too high on one issue they’d change gears. Hence, in the middle of the EWWG discussions and negotiations, they and officials of the MOE decided to slip what APT and the EH-Team felt was a major nasty piece of work by the community. This nasty piece of work was a Certificate of Approval for the Off-Site Containment and Treatment System (OSCTS). The crux of the problem was the provision for determining acceptable NDMA concentrations after treatment prior to discharge to the Creek. Uniroyal wanted higher concentrations and the rest of the world figuratively speaking wanted lower concentrations. Another public UPAC meeting was held in the Community Centre on Snyder Avenue for Uniroyal to present their case and for the other parties and the public to have their say. This public meeting was held on February 23, 1998 and was well attended albeit not as well attended as the January 1995 public meeting. Dr. David Ash suggested at this meeting that it would be difficult for the manufacturer of the treatment equipment to guarantee a better treatment level without adding more capacity to the system. My public response to Mr. Ash was “If all you have to do is add treatment capacity I’m all for it. Go ahead and add treatment capacity."45 Both the Grand River Conservation Authority and the Region of Waterloo expressed concerns with the discharge criteria to the Creek and publicly expressed them. Despite this, UPAC voted in favour of the draft Certificate of Approval as it was without any improvements. Susan Bryant, I and others walked out of the meeting in disgust. Susan Bryant later was quoted in the Independent as saying, “I don’t know who is waving what but they (MOE) run in terror from the company. It is appalling."46 After the MOE issued the C. of A., Sylvia Berg stated in the Woolwich Observer that “The C. of A. issued by the MOE this week allows Uniroyal to average its discharge to the creek over 12 months. It’s a licence to pollute for the next 30 years."47 According to Sylvia Berg, a retired MOE officer had advised APT that Uniroyal had threatened to appeal the Certificate of Approval, hence the MOE caved in to their demands. With a majority of willfully uninformed Uniroyal supporters on the committee (UPAC), who generally did not read the reports carefully, if at all, UPAC’s approval wasn’t a big surprise. After all, a vote like this is precisely why neither APT nor the EH- Team were members of UPAC. After this vote by UPAC carried, Ken Seiling and the Region of Waterloo warned UPAC that if they continue to ignore regional input and comments that they would withdraw from UPAC. Clearly, the Region of Waterloo was just as disgusted with UPAC as the local citizens were. In fact, the Region of Waterloo did exactly what they had advised UPAC that they would do. I do not understand why on earth they rejoined a much later reincarnation of the Chemtura Public Advisory Committee (CPAC) known as RAC, in 2015. That said, their attendance has been spotty. In the March 9, 1998 Elmira Independent Editor Gail Gardiner (Martin) about UPAC’s performance wrote ”…only local environmentalists such as Alan Marshall, Susan Bryant or Esther Thur made any comment on the reports or questioned Uniroyal Chemical on an issue."48 While Gail Gardiner was accurate in realizing that the majority of UPAC members didn’t do their homework, Sylvia Berg and Henry Regier were two other citizens who on occasion asked questions. Change was coming as reported in an April 1998 edition of the Woolwich Observer. New members were added to UPAC and they included Ron Ormson, Gerry Heidbuurt, Fred Hager, and Dr. Henry Regier. I believe that three of these four were either neighbours or acquaintances of Susan Bryant. UPAC desperately needed to reform and this was the first step.
The EWWG was in full swing. Their efforts included junkets to both Canadian and American sites looking at remediation options for the buried wastes. Back at UPAC, Dr. Henry Regier authored the motion for UPAC’s vote on what to do with the wastes. Fred Hager, Ruby Weber, and Ron Ormson favoured trucking them to a secure landfill. Dr. Regier and a majority of UPAC members were in favour of some form of incineration. Meanwhile, the long running and far travelling EWWG failed to come up with a formal Recommendation to Uniroyal regarding its disposal of the contents of the Envirodome also referred to as the Toxidome or the Mausoleum. What a farce. Susan Bryant was also not amused. “There is no reason that it had to be private. There were no negotiations."49 It is unfortunate that years down the road, Susan and her friends continued to ignore her own advice and observations.
My quoted comments at the time regarding Uniroyal’s choice of landfilling the contents of the Envirodome in Corunna, Ontario was “Landfilling is not the worst possible solution for the waste, it is also not the best."50 Of course, it was rather embarrassing a few short months after the contents were transferred to Corunna that water and methane began to bubble up through the bottom of one of the disposal cells at the Corunna Laidlaw facility. After the fact, the EWWG who had refused to make a formal Recommendation, did support Uniroyal’s choice of land filling.
ENDNOTES for Chapter 4
32 Barry Ries, “Uniroyal denies staff at fault in chlorine leak”, Kitchener-Waterloo Record, March 15,
33 John Roe, “Critics put Uniroyal on hot seat”, Kitchener-Waterloo Record, January 18, 1995
34 “APT Environment wants stronger action applied to Uniroyal to clean up its site”, Elmira
Independent, January 23, 1995
35 “Elmira resident wants Uniroyal Chemical to excavate former dump”, Elmira Independent, January
37 Bob Burtt, “Abrasive methods get results environmentalist finds”, Kitchener-Waterloo Record,
August 10, 1995,p. A1.
38 Letter to the Editor, UPAC has gone to sleep, but APT refuses to join the snore”, Elmira Independent,
October 23, 1995
39 Bob Burtt, “Study uses leeches, mussels, to determine toxic levels”, Kitchener-Waterloo Record,
January 17, 1996
40 Dr. Richard Jackson, TAG meeting, Woolwich Council Chambers, December 2016
41 Letter to the editor, “An exercise in futility”, Elmira Independent, March 18, 1996
42 Gail Gardiner, “Local company not considered to destroy toxic soil at Uniroyal”, Elmira Independent,
October 27, 1997,p.1.
43 Ibid. p.2.
44 Gail Gardiner, “Local environmental group upset at “secret meetings”, Elmira Independent,
February 2, 1998, p. 1.
45 Gail Gardiner, “Special UPAC meeting introduces tighter restrictions on Uniroyal treatment plan”,
Elmira Independent, March 2, 1998
46 Tony Reinhart, Shirley Rennie, “Uniroyal scraps toxic soil plans”, Kitchener-Waterloo Record,
March 3, 1998
47 Letter to the Editor, “Diluting the creek and the Certificate of Approval”, Woolwich Observer,
March 14, 1998
48 Gail Gardiner, “Changes at UPAC are encouraging”, Elmira Independent, March 9, 1998
49 Bob Burtt, “Uniroyal to haul away toxic stew”, Kitchener-Waterloo Record, June 30, 1998
50 Gail Gardiner, “Uniroyal waste going to dump near Sarnia”, Elmira Independent, July 6, 1998