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.
Tuesday, October 1, 2019
ELMIRA WATER WOES: THE TRIUMPH OF CORRUPTION, DECEIT, AND CITIZEN BETRAYAL
TABLE OF CONTENTS
102 ....Disappointing Times
104 ....Past Cover ups Come Back to Haunt the MOE
The rest of 2008 and into 2009 were not CPAC’s brightest moments. The so- called hydraulic containment of the on-site municipal aquifers was horrible especially during 2008. This was exactly what I had foreseen and it could have been avoided if Pat McLean and Susan Bryant hadn’t played CPAC and CPAC hadn’t fallen for the nonsense, hook, line and sinker.117 Their strengths combined with Ron Ormston, Gerry Heidebuurt, Henry Regier, mine, and the other CPAC members gave CPAC a fighting chance for greater success against Chemtura, the MOE, Conestoga Rovers, Woolwich Council, etc. Most importantly, Ms. Bryant and Ms. McLean undermined citizen solidarity. Sylvia Berg with Susan Bryant’s knowledge had undermined APT by manipulating the departure of Rich Clausi, Esther Thur and I in January 1994 over the DNAPL issue. On their own, Ms. Bryant and Ms. McLean made poor decisions not in the public interest. They were so caught up in the hurry up and wait syndrome combined with their own belief in their inherent superiority to make tough decisions that they made serious mistakes often to the benefit of Uniroyal/Crompton/Chemtura. The hurry up and wait syndrome was typical of the company representatives. They would make members of CPAC and the public literally wait for decades for action but feedback to them had to be yesterday, otherwise they’d claim dire consequences always loomed. Two very bad poker players were bluffed into some really bad decisions. Not surprisingly their later political friend, Sandy Shantz, was of the same ilk. Ms. Shantz also ridiculously felt that the polluter should make all the decisions. Again unsurprisingly those decisions were far more often in the polluter’s best interests, not the public’s.
The pumping rate in the municipal aquifer (MU) was awful from May 2007 until November 2008 for both on and off the Chemtura site. Some might even wonder if Pat McLean’s and Susan Bryant’s backstabbing was as much to create a diversion as it was to allow their continued dominance in CPAC decision- making. Certainly, after the fact, everyone was all over Chemtura for that lost year and a half of both on-site and off-site containment and treatment. For a short period of time, suggestions were made that MOE officials might charge Chemtura management for failing to meet its commitments. Of course when the MOE allows those commitments to be no more than “best efforts,” then they’ve already handcuffed themselves. Please understand that Chemtura’s pumping rates were already in the toilet a few months prior to the manufactured CPAC crisis starting in September 2007. Also of interest is the fact that the cold winter months at the end of 2007 and start of 2008 made little or no difference to the summer pumping rates when it should have. That was odd considering that allegedly ammonia concentrations were only a problem to Creek biota in the warmer summer months hence causing effluent pumping reductions. This was neither the first nor the last time such a manufactured crisis was used to further Uniroyal/Chemtura’s interests. Essentially when 75% of the parties and individuals are corrupted, co-opted or simply uninformed in a process, it becomes extraordinarily difficult for the remainder to make progress, no matter how much the others pretend to be on side.
A pattern began to emerge in regards to new members on CPAC started earlier with the positive additions of Ron Ormston and Gerry Heidebuurt. In November 2009, friends of Susan Bryant were appointed to CPAC. Two were unremarkable and did not stay as members for long. A third turned out to be more interested in loyalty to Susan than in learning what Chemtura and CPAC were all about. The fourth new member, probably not a friend of Susan’s, was the best of the bunch and that was Ken Driedger, the pastor of Zion Mennonite Church in Elmira. He and Gerry Heidebuurt were a definite loss when they were not reappointed to CPAC in 2011 by mayor Todd Cowan. The jury for me is still out in regards to Ron Ormston. Technically he was very solid but where he stood in regards to Ms. McLean and Ms. Bryant and the proper democratic operation of a committee, I am not sure. I had advised Todd Cowan in early 2011 to reappoint both Ken Driedger and Gerry Heidebuurt to no avail.
In the November 18, 2009 edition of the Elmira Independent, Gail Martin, editor, wrote an excellent Editorial titled “Remembering Elmira’s water crisis”. Five people were given credit for their efforts to assist in the restoration of the local environment in Elmira as well as downstream in the Canagagigue Creek namely: myself, Richard Clausi, Dr. Henry Regier, and Esther Thur - all members of the Elmira Environmental Hazards Team and Susan Bryant of APT Environment.118 While the recognition was nice I found it revealing that 100% of the former APT members, now EH-Team, were all recognized while only one current APT member was.
The Elmira Independent carried an article in the October 21, 2009 edition titled, “Second source of contamination: Marshall.” I presented a Delegation to the October 5, 2009 CPAC meeting on the matter. In the presentation I stated that I believed other companies in addition to Uniroyal closer to the south wellfield contaminated the drinking wells with NDMA. I specifically mentioned monitoring well CH38 near Industrial Drive as having NDMA readings much higher than other wells closer to the Uniroyal Chemical property. Gail Martin quoted me as naming several likely candidates that included Sanyo (slim evidence), Borg Textiles (more evidence), and Varnicolor Chemical (highest evidence). The article also mentioned that I had brought this information to Woolwich Council as well as to (CELA) the Canadian Environmental Law Association.119
A proposed residential development, Hawk Ridge Homes, first appeared on both CPAC’s and the public’s radar in the fall of 2009. The premise was simple. The chair of the Regional Municipality of Waterloo, Ken Seiling, I have been told did not change the zoning in this area next to Chemtura and Sulco from residential to commercial years past when he was the mayor of the Town of Elmira. Now, of course, politics being what they are, Mr. Seiling may have had several other conflicting circumstances or Woolwich councillors blocking a directive from the province of Ontario advising municipalities to keep residential zones away from chemical facilities. The fact that it was his mother-in-law who owned the apple orchard that went to his wife after his mother-in-law passed on and was then sold to Hawk Ridge Developments may have been embarrassing for him. Chemtura, Sulco, and Woolwich Township were all in opposition to this property being developed into a residential subdivision because the land is in the “kill zone” of the Worst Case Scenario release of anhydrous ammonia by Chemtura. After a few years the issue went to the Ontario Municipal Board who astoundingly to me and others denied approval of the subdivision not because of the life and death safety issues of being beside two chemical companies but because of middle of the night noise from the shunting of rail cars at either Chemtura Canada or Sulco Chemicals. Go figure. Noise pollution trumps death threats. To this day this development project hasn’t been killed, merely wounded and delayed, and round two is still expected likely in 2019.
Since 2005 and as mentioned earlier I had been keeping an eye on a horrific environmental issue in Cambridge, Ontario in the Bishop Street community. Several hundred homes downgradient from Northstar Aerospace and General Electric (formerly Rozell) had been affected by vapour intrusion into their basements from trichloroethylene (TCE) spilled or dumped decades earlier. Several of the residents had attended an earlier CPAC meeting to learn about DNAPLS of which TCE is one. I was aware that In-Situ Chemical Oxidation (ISCO) was used in Cambridge as a form of source removal at the industrial sites. Basically, ISCO could chemically break down chlorinated solvents in the subsurface. In Elmira, several different DNAPLS exist underground including chlorobenzene. I brought this information to the attention of CPAC via a Delegation to them and neither they nor Chemtura and the MOE appeared the least bit interested. Strangely enough a few short years later Chemtura Canada trumpeted ISCO as a method they were going to attempt to speed up the cleanup of the off-site aquifers. Of course with Chemtura Canada and the MOE, talk was always cheap. Now in late 2018 they still haven’t managed to get ISCO treatment successfully underway.
An article in the November 25, 2009 edition of the Elmira Independent raised concerns about a number of monitoring wells that Chemtura Canada wished to drop from regular monitoring. For Chemtura Canada it was strictly a cost- saving mechanism as there was little or no rationale provided for the removal of these monitoring wells. CPAC kept delaying on formally commenting because Wilf Ruland, was out of the country and CPAC members apparently weren’t capable of commenting themselves. I was quite capable of so doing based on my ongoing reading of both Chemtura Monthly Progress Reports as well as of the Annual Monitoring Report. From those reports I knew full well which monitoring wells provided consistent and accurate groundwater concentration data. Unfortunately, as I had been removed by Woolwich councillors from CPAC, all parties then refused to give me the list of proposed wells for removal in a timely manner. That seems to be what public consultation looks like in Woolwich Township. I call it dog in the manger behaviour by Pat McLean and Susan Bryant.120
At the March 29, 2010 CPAC meeting CPAC and the public were advised that DNAPL remediation would be yet again put on hold. I was quoted as telling CPAC members that as long as you are willing to sit and talk nicely with Chemtura Canada that is exactly what they will do. Uniroyal/Chemtura representatives do not talk, bargain, or negotiate in good faith. Public consultation in Elmira seems to be about going through the motions for the company and the MOE. Chemtura Canada are masters of the delay and do nothing strategy, because it saves them money.
On April 28, 2010, Mike Hicknell of Elmira sent a Letter To The Editor (Woolwich Observer) asking why the town of Elmira historically gets all the problem sites. He referenced Uniroyal, Varnicolor, Nutrite, slot machines, and finally, the proposed new bio-gas installation at the north end of town. He asked why Elmira residents don’t tell these industries to get lost. He also asked whether “…smart business people know they can always get their way and do what they want in Elmira."121 Mr. Hicknell appeared to feel that our local council was less concerned with existing residents and more concerned with a larger tax base irrelevant of future environmental and social problems.
Past Cover ups Come Back to Haunt the MOE
The Elmira Independent published an article in its March 17, 2010 edition titled “Deep monitoring wells required on former Varnicolor property.” Approximately nineteen years after the MOE laid a control order on Varnicolor in 1991 demanding deep monitoring and a deep investigation, MOE officials were ordering the current owners (Three Eights Inc.) to do so.122 At the current time the company is better known as the Elmira Pump Co. This article follows my public comments in October 2009 that there were other sources of contamination to the Elmira Aquifers. Time since then has only reinforced those claims although the MOE and other authorities refuse to advise the public regarding these other local polluters.
Wally Ruck of Uniroyal infamy said in 1989 that “NDMA is not in our vocabulary.” He and others employed by Uniroyal were lambasted in various media for that ridiculous comment as it was later proven that Uniroyal had found NDMA at extremely high levels in its wastewater in 1979, ten years previously. Uniroyal and the MOE also had found it in the air surrounding their facilities many years beforehand and they both knew it was a health concern.
Similarly, the Ontario Ministry of Environment (MOE) claimed ignorance of NDMA in 1989. They claimed that September 1989 was the very first time they had ever tested for it in Elmira drinking wells. MOE officials claimed that they had no drinking water standard for it. They claimed that it was some recently discovered industrial chemical and that they had no experience or knowledge with it whatsoever. Some of their comments were falsehoods. That makes me wonder how many other comments were.
NDMA is known as N-Nitrosodimethylamine as well as dimethylnitrosamine. Both are one and the same. Both are known to be highly carcinogenic. Some scientists including Dr. William Lejinsky from Maryland, USA have referred to NDMA as being just about the most carcinogenic compound there is. That’s quite a claim with stiff competition from dioxins and PCBs.
In the summer of 2018 Mike Hicknell gave me a copy of a booklet that the MOE published in November, 1978 titled “Water Management Goals, Policies, Objectives and Implementation Procedures of the Ministry of the Environment.” Harry Parrot was the Minister of the Environment.
Page 45 of this booklet lists chemicals with zero tolerance limits. They include DDT, PCBs, PBBs, mercury and mirex. To this day, DDT, PCBs, and mercury can be found the length of the Cangagigue Creek below the Lanxess (Uniroyal) site. It is possibe mirex exists in low quantities there too. Additionally dioxins/furans exist in the creek. Lots of them. Not to worry, however, as the MOE have since raised the allowable limits in surface water. What was a zero tolerance level by the MOE in 1978 now appears too onerous for some manufacturers to comply with and apparently MOE officials to enforce.
Page 50 of this MOE booklet contains a list of “Herbicides Actively Used in Ontario.” The chemical compound 2,4,5-T is on that list, which is known as 2,4,5 trichlorophenoxyacetic acid. It contains as a by-product of manufacture the most toxic dioxin there is: tetrachlorodibenzodioxin or 2,3,7,8 TCDD. This dioxin is the toxic ingredient in the infamous herbicide, Agent Orange that Uniroyal Chemical in Elmira produced and sold to the U.S. military and others in Canada and the U.S. Here in Ontario it was sprayed along power corridors and highways from the 1950s to the 1970s.
Finally on page 48, there is a listing of substances with undefined tolerance limits. The list includes Dimethylnitrosamine (NDMA) and describes it thusly: “used in herbicides and cutting oils – identified as mutagenic and carcinogenic.”
In 1978 (and likely earlier) the Ontario MOE knew that Uniroyal had been manufacturing herbicides since the late 1940s or early 1950s and that NDMA would be found in the products and/or waste waters. Allegedly they didn’t think to test Elmira’s drinking water for another eleven years. Uniroyal had been testing its waste waters for NDMA at least since 1979. Did the MOE knowingly look the other way while Uniroyal poisoned the water supply in Elmira? Did their lack of a standard allow Uniroyal to profit for an additional decade or longer while handing out death sentences to some Elmira residents? Do we, the public, allow corporate murder for profit?
I believe that David Brenneman, Chief Administrative Officer of Woolwich Township, is a part of the problem. Many years ago I approached him both by phone and in writing for information from Woolwich Township regarding the incidents of solvents in the Howard Street storm drains. A formal investigation by the Township was conducted in 1983 and allegedly nothing could be proven as to the source although Varnicolor Chemical was the focus of the investigation. These incidents of solvents in the storm drains in the early 1980s, running between Varnicolor Chemical and Borg Textiles on Howard Street and their discharge point, Landfill Creek which empties into the Canagagigue Creek occurred a number of times. Mr. Brenneman intentionally stalled and delayed providing me the reports for many months with no follow up or response and then pulled his usual figurative whining and crying that I was rude to him when I demanded an answer. What an arse. Sorry David, I keep forgetting that I seem to be the one in public service and that I report to you not the other way around.
In hindsight, I ask why would Borg Textiles send any of its liquid wastes through the storm sewers when they had a perfectly good creek (Landfill Creek) running through the back (south end) of its property that discharged directly into the Canagagigue Creek ? The surface topography of the Borg site means that all waters flow south into Landfill Creek. Furthermore the storm sewer on Howard Avenue is on the north side of the street. To this day there are catch basins (grates) on both the Elmira Theatre Company property next door to the former Varnicolor site as well as on the Elmira Pump Co. property, which is the former Varnicolor site. Over the years I thought it would have been almost impossible for Borg to discharge high strength liquid wastes into the Howard Street storm drains without running a hose across the road and into the catch basins, whereas it would have been simplicity itself for Varnicolor to do so on its own property. Recently, however, I have observed a catch basin not on the south side of Howard Avenue but actually on the former Borg Textile site quite close to Howard Avenue. The catch basin is actually at the north-east corner of Borg’s former site. Old maps showing the odourous and discoloured liquids position also indicate the down gradient location of these observations as being on the south side of Howard Avenue. I had assumed that there was simply a pipe underneath Howard Avenue, east of Union Street, which transported storm water from the north side to the south side. Is it possible that this catch basin at the north-east corner of Borg is directly connected to the catch basin on the Township’s south side of Howard Avenue, east of Union Street? If so as seems certainly plausible this might indeed indicate that Borg, not Varnicolor, was responsible for the chlorobenzene in the Howard Avenue storm sewers. Of course with authorities from Woolwich Township and the MOE routinely refusing ready access to the public of taxpayer funded documents, it obscures the truth which is likely their intent after all.
Regardless as to the responsibility of Borg, there are issues with the lack of chlorobenzene found on the Varnicolor site. Chlorobenzene is one of the solvents found in the Howard Street storm sewer in the early 1980s. Several rounds of monitoring, both private and MOE, apparently never found chlorobenzene on the Varnicolor site. This finding is suspicious due to the fact that chlorobenzene is a common solvent used to remove or clean-up spilled paints. Varnicolor was a solvent recycler as well as a hazardous waste disposal site. So, did the MOE fudge the samples they sent to the lab? Did they fudge the written reports afterward and replace detections with non-detects (ND), knowing that any detections of chlorobenzene would both likely prove Varnicolor’s guilt in the early 1980s regarding the contamination of the storm drains as well as implicate the Varnicolor owner with the Elmira Water Crisis? Chlorobenzene is a major compound contaminating the Elmira Aquifers. I have already discussed that the MOE was desperate to cover up the extent of Varnicolor’s pollution on both of their sites to minimize their negligence and incompetence as well as to put and keep the much larger and financially capable Uniroyal Chemical on the hook to pay for clean-up.
In my discussions of past cover-ups returning to haunt the MOE, I remind readers that the MOE, despite the changes in personnel, seemed consistent in covering up the extent of remediation needed on the old Varnicolor site since 1993. Extensive shallow excavations were done across the site. Those excavations looked impressive. Despite the initial control order demanding it, deep testing never occurred or if it did occur was never reported to the Varnicolor Liason Committee, of which I was a member. If the data was given to either Susan Bryant or Sylvia Berg then they buried it because Richard Clausi, Ted Oldfield, and I never saw it. Another extremely painful thought is that the removal of deep soil and groundwater testing from the Varnicolor control order, while done without the prior knowledge or consent of Richard, Ted or I, may have been done with the private consent of two other APT members. This is the insidious nature of back room deal making.
Finally, deep monitoring wells were ordered by the MOE at the expense of Elmira Pump in March 2010. Again the MOE are hiding and refusing to give the details of that information to the public. They are so far past being unreliable it is incredible. Even now they refuse to give Elmira Pump its Record of Site Condition (RSC) so that the owners can sub-divide the property and build commercial storage units on the surface of the site. I mentioned earlier that in May 2016 this RSC was allegedly imminent after the presentation of the results of a Risk Assessment. Nothing yet as of this publication.
There might be one reason for all this subterfuge and that is that Varnicolor contributed NDMA and possibly chlorobenzene as well as at least a half dozen other toxic chemicals to the Elmira Aquifers, under the MOE’s watch. Bad enough the MOE couldn’t control Uniroyal a multi-national corporation, but they couldn’t even stop little, dinky Varnicolor. That reality is pathetic and that, folks, in my opinion is Ontario tax dollars at work - protecting industry, both large and small.
The investigation of the contamination of the Howard Street storm sewers was primarily done by Varnicolor and its hired consultant, Canviro Inc. Exactly how objective do you think that investigation was? Most of the investigative activity it turns out occurred closer to 1986 to 87 and not in 1982 to 84 as I had formerly understood. Relative to the Howard Street storm sewers, an entire appendix as well as references exist in Canviro’s 1987 hydrogeological report regarding the Varnicolor Chemical groundwater situation. Canviro was a subsidiary of CH2MHILL Consulting who dropped Varnicolor as a client when the Region of Waterloo hired CH2MHILL to do extensive hydrogeological work for them after the start of the Elmira Water Crisis in 1989.
Woolwich Townshp was involved in the Howard Street sewer investigation through the former Public Works Department. Employees provided information regarding drainage in the Howard Street and Union Street area as well as pipe connections from the Varnicolor property into the Howard Avenue storm sewers. Bill Kowalchuk, CAO for Woolwich Township, also was involved in defending Varnicolor and in an amazing coincidence was hired by Varnicolor approximately a year later after being fired by Woolwich Township. I learned that it was a firing by Woolwich Township rather than a voluntary leaving by someone reputedly in the know, and I’ve never heard the firing disputed.
The excuses as to why Varnicolor didn’t contaminate these storm sewers came fast and furious from all parties with a vested interest in keeping Varnicolor’s, at the time, pristine reputation intact. This included the MOE. Then, after I blew the whistle on Varnicolor’s toxic waste management in 1990, the MOE continued their stalwart defence of Varnicolor for some reason. You know, it’s almost as if the MOE knew that an environmental day of reckoning was just around the corner and officials wanted no distractions from Uniroyal Chemical being made responsible for as much of the toxic mess as possible.
Evidence of the illegal dumping included volumes of liquids in the storm sewers far beyond what should have been in them long after rainstorms. Officials as well as consultants felt that groundwater en masse had to be being directed into the Howard Street storm sewer. Perhaps what they didn’t consider was the possibility not just of contaminated groundwater from Varnicolor but outright intentional dumping. In other words, waste solvents and waters that owner Severin Argenton couldn’t recycle were nothing but an expense to him, unless he dumped them illegally. These solvents found in the Howard Street storm sewers at high concentrations were all solvents found as well in Varnicolor’s groundwater except for chlorobenzene. The solvents included 1,1 dichlorethane and 1,2 dichloroethane which the Canviro reports incorrectly stated weren’t in Varnicolor’s groundwater. They were, although they may have been found at a slightly later date, after the MOE tested the Varnicolor site.
Regarding chlorobenzene, an innocuous solvent commonly found in paint thinners and other uses, I’ve never understood why along with the dozens to hundreds of other solvents found at Varnicolor, chlorobenzene allegedly was not. Either there is yet another source or as stated earlier, the MOE did some serious fudging of lab data and or reporting.
This chapter has described what I view as a narrow and limited thinking on CPAC. Evidence of other sources abounded yet no citizens on CPAC seemed interested in pursuing them for the purpose of enhancing the overall clean-up of the Elmira Aquifers. After all simply hydraulically containing the Uniroyal site, in theory at least, would do nothing to stop the spread of contamination from multiple other sources around town. Also simply pumping and treating the aquifers outside the Uniroyal/Chemtura plant would also not stop ongoing new contamination in instances where DNAPLs were present. This included behind (west) Varnicolor Chemical and below Nutrite/Yara just to name two locations.
The next chapter describes the environmental revolution that occurred in Elmira once the citizens cleaned out the bulk of the old guard on Woolwich Council. While nobody disputes Todd Cowan as a terribly flawed individual, he did at least set the stage for both an environmental turnaround and for public awareness as to the pro polluter partisanship of most of our old guard councillors, especially after Mr. Cowan’s brief tenure.
ENDNOTES for Chapter 11
117 Letter To The Editor, “Ministry should lay charges”, Elmira Independent, December 3, 2008
118 Gail Martin, Editorial, “Remembering Elmira’s water crisis”, Elmira Independent, November 18, 2009
119 Gail Martin, “Second source of contamination: Marshall”, Elmira Independent, October 21, 2009
120 Gail Martin, “Monitoring wells still in question”, Elmira Independent, November 25, 2009
121 Letter To The Editor, “Why is Elmira unfairly targeted?”, Elmira Independent, April 28, 2010
122 Gail Martin, “Deep monitoring wells required on former Varnicolor property”, Elmira Independent, March 17, 2010