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Saturday, October 12, 2019
ELMIRA WATER WOES: THE TRIUMPH OF CORRUPTION, DECEIT, AND CITIZEN BETRAYAL
TABLE OF CONTENTS
208.....The Games Continue
210.....The Canagagigue Coverup Continues
211.....January 24, 2019 TAG Meeting
213.....February 28 TAG Meeting
214.....The Site Tour
215.....The RAC Meeting
216.....Revelations and Epiphanies
218.....Next TAG Meeting
The Games Continue
In September 2018, Sandy Shantz as mayor of Woolwich Township somewhat prematurely and informally advised Technical Advisory Group (TAG) members that they would all have their terms of office extended after the October 2018 municipal elections. I guess you can do that when there are only two seats up for contention out of three wards and five councillors. No one threw their hat in the ring to run against Sandy Shantz for the mayor’s seat although she was vulnerable after her public screw-ups in her first term. Some township citizens contend she still isn’t the legitimate mayor as she has yet to win a contested election that is not encumbered with judicial conditions by which she failed to abide.
By November 2018, the Woolwich Observer published advertisements for applications to all Woolwich Township committees except for the Remediation Advisory Committee (RAC) and TAG. Odd, isn’t it, that four years previous the story was that the Township look for applications to all Woolwich committees at the start of each new electoral term. It is possible with the ridiculous six-month extension which Mark Bauman managed to instigate in 2011 after the Todd Cowan fiasco in 2010 of CPAC appointments, that ads for applications to TAG or RAC could still appear. Of course, that also would be embarrassing because both Sandy and now the TAG Chair, Tiffany Svensson, have verbally advised TAG members that they were all welcomed back for more free work in burnishing the polluter’s public consultation credentials. Let’s not ignore the reality that some TAG members take their volunteer work more seriously than others and are critical at times of GHD and Lanxess positions.
By December 20, 2018, the delayed surficial and superficial excavation of the Stroh farm was underway. This excavation was approximately 5.9 inches (15 cm.) deep by perhaps twenty-nine feet (9 metres) wide. When I visually examined the excavated area I was of the impression that Lanxess might actually in certain places have gone perhaps nine or ten inches deep into the soil. Members of TAG, CPAC, and the public were promised this remediation would be completed by the end of 2018; however, it was still underway in the middle of January 2019. On December 20, 2018 I extended my environmental fieldtrip based on a tip to include the north end of Bolender Park. Sure enough, there was a drilling rig as well as several workers in attendance. The drilling rig was owned by Aardvark Drilling Contractor Services who had been subcontracted by GHD to drill for another methane probe. Of course, as I’ve previously mentioned, Woolwich Township Councillors have been in a conflict of interest position in employing the same consulting firm employed by Lanxess Canada. To me, this blatant conflict of interest had been going on for at least the last thirty-five years as Conestoga Rovers (CRA) had been consulting for Woolwich Township in regards to methane issues in Bolender Park since 1983 and working on behalf of Uniroyal Chemical since the 1980s. As I understand it, Uniroyal Chemical’s interests have never been the same as those of the public’s and most specifically of the Elmira public. CRA merged with GHD in 2015 and the consulting firm continues to represent both Lanxess Canada and Woolwich Township in certain key environmental concerns. That is beyond disgraceful and perhaps even more than a moral and ethical issue.
I had an interesting conversation with one of the GHD technician/field workers. He confirmed that the major problem with methane monitoring in this area of Elmira is the high water table resulting in frequent flooding of the gas probes. This flooding has been a significant problem for most of the last thirty-five years resulting in difficulties in measuring methane gas accurately when gas ports are below the water table, and thus, filled with water. Over the decades I have come to an interesting conclusion. CRA, GHD, Uniroyal, Chemtura, or Lanxess representatives have never appeared to credit citizen volunteers for good suggestions regarding remediation. In fact, on more than one occasion, I’ve seen those parties denigrate a suggestion only to eventually embrace it but without giving credit where credit is due. This lack of recognition would include the belated attempt to remove contamination using In Situ Chemical Oxidation, the promised but never delivered plan to triple off-site groundwater pumping six months after CPAC members advised Chemtura that the 2028 cleanup wasn’t going to happen, and CRA’s use of multi-level sampling in the groundwater monitoring wells. This new monitoring well at the southern side of the Bolender Park Landfill is yet another example of not acknowledging the meaningful contributions of community scientists. I have informed Woolwich Council in writing on a number of occasions that its consultants had failed to properly monitor for methane because they focused on the west and north sides of the former landfill while giving little attention to the east and no attention at all to the southern side of the landfill, which is into Bolender Park itself. I interpret not having put monitoring probes on the southern side as the usual irresponsible plausible deniability by being able to say that consultants never detected methane on the south side.
This last stratagem is commonly used by practitioners of the deceptive arts. In January 2019 at Woolwich Council Chambers, Lou Almeida of GHD tried it on me when he bragged that waste waters from Uniroyal Chemical had not flowed over to the Stroh property and the proof was that the highest dioxin/furan readings were in the remediated, currently known location of GP1. I jumped on that and replied that the only reason that GP1 currently “had the highest dioxin readings” was a result of Lanxess and GHD having done zero soil (or sediment) testing in and around the Stroh Drain. Mr. Almeida was appropriately subdued after that.
The December 6, 2018 edition of the Woolwich Observer had a humourous cartoon. Like all cartoons of course it requires some truth in it to really jab the point home. Cartoonist Scott Arnold, shows the six Woolwich Councillors with CAO Dave Brenneman and the Municipal Clerk Val Hummel with the councillors all holding election expense reports and Dave Brenneman is captioned as saying, “We know the deadline is months away, but better to start early…” The caption along the bottom of the cartoon states “Woolwich officials hope not to repeat the court challenges that followed the 2014 election, staying off the naughty list."224
Jeff Outhit of the Waterloo Region Record wrote an article that was published on January 4, 2019. It was titled, “Cleanup launched after Elmira chemical factory taints farm next door.” This cleanup was the previously mentioned surficial and superficial excavations started on the Stroh farm bordering the Uniroyal/Lanxess property the previous month. The Record article states “Soil tests have found a shallow ribbon of contaminated dirt on the farm, up to 500 metres long but limited to the top fifteen centimetres/5.9 inches and less than nine metres from the Lanxess property boundary."225 This alleged ribbon of contamination is worse than hooey. The testing in this area was done only to a six inch/ fifteen cm. deep and it was done only to nine metres from the property line thus ensuring a maximum size and volume of excavation that was required.
Sebastian Seibel-Achenbach, member of TAG and the only CPAC member who could resubmit his application a second time to the new public advisory committee without gagging in disgust at the process, had much to say about some of Lanxess’s claims in this newspaper article. A Lanxess representative claimed that either wind or rain might have blown or washed dioxins and furans onto the Stroh farm. Sebastian was quoted in the January 4th Record article as saying, “That’s very self-serving.” He added, “I think there was a lot of material that actually just flowed over and deliberately was allowed to flow over those pits."226 Those pits being the east side pits running the length of the 25 Erb Street property border with the Stroh farm. The owner, Ron Stroh, was quoted as saying, “I grow all kinds of crops on that field."227 Isn’t that just a yummy thought? Sebastian strongly suggested that further off-site cleanup was required and hoped that this excavation was the start of more detailed remediation on both the Stroh and likely the nearby Martin farm.
I consider the games being played in the Elmira Water Crisis to be both long- and short-term games. It turns out that Lanxess may be looking for the windup of RAC and TAG. Those new bodies were brought in to give Chemtura/Lanxess and the MOE a free hand to do whatever they wanted while going through the motions of public consultation. That said, reprentatives of Chemtura and the MOE both got one hell of a shock when Dr. Richard Jackson appointed by Woolwich Township in 2015 began dissecting Conestoga Rovers efforts. Dr. Jackson continued this criticism with direct attacks upon those representatives of both Chemtura and the MOE. As stated in Chapter Twenty, Dr. Jackson took no prisoners when he saw either incompetence or self-serving decision-making. Tiffany Svensson, the new chair of TAG since 2017, is also doing her best to poke and prod the MOE and Lanxess into doing more. The combination of GHD and new Lanxess personnel is somewhat overwhelming; however, TAG members nevertheless show a stronger understanding today of the nonsense that has gone on in Elmira over the last thirty years. The suggested windup of RAC and TAG could occur as soon as the risk assessments for the Canagagigue Creek have been concluded by Lanxess and its consultants.
In their place Lanxess representatives have approached Sulco Chemicals (owned by Canada Colours Sulphur Products) with a proposition. Lanxess managers would like a joint citizen advisory panel (CAP) with Sulco. This joint CAP would discuss only concerns surrounding current industrial chemical operations, which would include ongoing air emissions, odours, creek, and sewage treatment plant discharges. In other words, so- called “historical” spills and past waste disposal practices of Uniroyal/Lanxess would not be allowed on the agenda. This restriction would be mighty convenient for Lanxess especially when it comes around to verification time for its *Responsible Care designation. I think it also is mighty convenient for Lanxess to ride on the coattails of Sulco. Sulco has done an excellent job in polishing its environmental credentials over at least the last fifteen years and likely more. The company has excellent relations with its own CAP because management have been straightforward and honest with them. These CAP members include Jim Germann, President of Elmira Pump, Ron Martin of Bridgeland Terminals, Ruby Weber, former Woolwich councillor, Dr. Dan Holt, Richard Clausi, and in the past, Pat McLean and Susan Bryant. I have been advised that Ms. Mclean and Ms. Bryant have not attended Sulco CAP meetings for quite some time. Early in January 2019, Ron Koniuch President and General Manager of Sulco, Dr. Holt, and Ruby Weber met with Jamie Petznick, Health, Safety , and Environmental Manager, Dwight Este, and Helder Botelho Head of Operations of Lanxess to discuss the possibility of a joint CAP. According to reports, the meeting was cordial and the Lanxess folks appeared sincere in their wishes to join the Sulco CAP.
Not all Sulco CAP members, however, are neophytes in dealing with Lanxess Canada Co. and its predecessors. Dr. Holt and Mr. Clausi have extensive experience dealing with Lanxess’s predecessors. As you recall, Dr. Holt was the Chair of the Chemtura Public Advisory Committee (CPAC) from 2011 until September 2015 when it was replaced by RAC and TAG. He was also the recipient of some Chemtura and Chemical Industry Association of Canada (CIAC) dirty tricks in regards to Chemtura’s re-verification under *Responsible Care as described in an earlier chapter. Mr. Clausi has been involved with Uniroyal Chemical and Varnicolor Chemical water issues considerably longer than Dr. Holt albeit with some breaks in between. He felt immediately that this plan for a joint CAP was all to Lanxess’ benefit and was not intended for purposes other than exactly that.
Consider Ms. Bryant’s and Ms. McLean’s lack of attendance at Sulco CAP meetings. Ms. McLean also attends TAG meetings infrequently. For someone who schemed and carried on including backstabbing and slandering fellow local citizens in order to get them booted off CPAC and herself and Susan Bryant back on, she has not attended TAG meetings regularly since its inception in September 2015. It may very well be that health issues are a problem which, while unfortunate, nevertheless should not guarantee her a position at either TAG or the Sulco CAP indefinitely. I am particularly interested to see if the pair of them suddenly show up at the Sulco CAP in time for the vote to permit Lanxess to join them. I believe that if history is any judge, both will vote in favour of Lanxess’s wishes.
My belief is that Lanxess’s proposal to join the Sulco CAP is simply to provide Lanxess with a seamless transition to a public advisory committee after they and their MOE allies in conjunction with Woolwich Township shut down RAC and TAG permanently. All these parties have wanted to make this cleanup matter go away starting five minutes after the water pipeline running from Waterloo to St. Jacobs and Elmira was completed in 1990. The goal has been about calming the outraged citizens who have suffered with bad water and bad air for decades and who then discovered that Uniroyal Chemical had destroyed their drinking water right under the noses of the Ontario Ministry of Environment.
The Canagagigue Coverup Continues
January 24, 2019 is a date that I’d been looking forward to for some time. At the December 13, 2018 RAC public meeting, Ramin Ansari of Lanxess had once again sprung upon TAG members and me his desire to speak about the “Gap” area and alleged interceptor trenches at the end of the meeting. Fortunately, TAG Chair Tiffany Svensson, intervened and suggested that it would be better if Ramin, GHD, and Lanxess attend the next TAG meeting on January 24, 2019 when the discussion could actually take place. This idea sounded particularly good to me as it meant that I could prepare ahead of time and not have to wing it as I had for the previous September meeting. Furthermore, I had the distinct impression that this pre-planned meeting meant that probably Sebastian and I would be speaking together during the course of the TAG meeting. This speaking at the meeting would be a breakthrough after the previous three and a quarter years of following the contemptible rules for so-called public consultation as laid down by what I refer to as Woolwich’s Pretend Mayor.
It was not to be. By January 15, 2019, Ms. Svensson e-mailed me, advising as to the process through which I could “talk” to Lanxess and GHD. It was shocking. She had a long shopping list of requirements all in support of a written submission from me to TAG members. The plan was for me to write down everything possible, including all evidence, all documents, all dates and times as well as where the various memos, letters, reports, delegations, and documents were likely located.
The reality was that I had already sent most of that information to members of TAG, Woolwich Township, the MOE, Chemtura/Lanxess quite some time ago. In fact, much of the “evidence” was contained in documents that were decades old and had been in the possession of all parties for that length of time. Of course, TAG members would not have had many of them although in theory at least once I gave Tiffany Svensson the title and date of them she should be able to get them from Woolwich Township archives. These requests from Tiffany Svensson were both onerous and the time frame she requested was too short. Nevertheless, by Friday, January 18, I sent her a two-page document advising as to the overall situation regarding the Stroh Drain, the interceptor trenches, the galvanized pipe discharging into the Drain, the “Gap” area, and the relocation of GP-1.
I was not terribly pleased with the Ms. Svensson’s proposal and made that clear in my two-page response. Furthermore, two friends who are colleagues had something to say as well. In correspondence with CPAC members, Richard Clausi referred to Tiffany’s communications to me as “cheeky.” It did seem somewhat odd that I should be asked for my input by Lanxess and that the TAG Chair should then lay down a lengthy list of conditions and requirements. Dr. Regier chose to be a little more direct and confronted Tiffany by e-mail with a number of comments and responses to her requirements. At one point he suggested that her remarks to me were “matronizing.” I must confess that I certainly did enjoy the demonstrable written support of Henry and Richard during this time frame.
I do believe that Tiffany Svensson was somewhat between a rock and a hard place. While Lanxess management as per Ramin Ansari had indicated in writing his desire to speak with me on these issues, it seemed probable that Ms. Svensson had gone to Sandy Shantz looking for at least a little relaxation of the brutally rigid and intentionally unworkable rules of engagement with the public. It appeared that Ms. Shantz was more concerned with saving face than with making any progress in understanding the likelihood of persistent organic pollutants migrating through the Stroh Drain and into the Canagagigue Creek. Sandy would not budge.
By this time, I returned to communicating with Ramin Ansari directly. I advised him that it appeared there would be zero chance for me to speak with him at the TAG meeting because of the dogmatic refusal of Ms. Shantz to permit normal communications with the other parties from either an expert or from a knowledgeable and concerned citizen. Ramin Ansari then suggested that once again we could meet and discuss the east side, Stroh property issues, etc. after the formal meeting. I agreed and at the same time I did send more information to TAG (and CPAC) member Sebastian Seibel-Achenbach the following week. He also visited me the evening before and prepared as best as possible because he, Dr. Seibel-Achenbach was going to take the lead at the formal CPAC meeting also discussing the Stroh property issues.
January 24, 2019 TAG Meeting
Basically, I was as ready as I could possibly be for this 6:30 pm. meeting in the Dodie Hummel Room beside Woolwich Council Chambers. Agenda Item 4.0 was referenced as the “Gap” area. Sebastian had advised me that he was the TAG “champion” as designated by Ms. Svensson on east side issues of the 25 Erb Street property. Hence, he would take the lead during the formal TAG discussion. At the same time, I had both my unique, very large map of the Lanxess’s property with me as well as numerous reports, colour maps, memos, etc. I preferred meeting in the Dodie Hummel Room because CPAC members in attendance and I were able to sit around the table along with TAG members, GHD, Lanxess, and the MOE personnel. I also would be able to open and spread out a few of the key reports that I’d be referencing in my expected discussions with Mr. Ansari and his colleagues after the formal TAG meeting. Those colleagues included Dwight Este of Lanxess, Lou Almeida of GHD, and even Jason Rice, Regional Engineer of the MOE.
The attendance at the TAG meeting and additional later meeting was excellent. Above and beyond the four folks representing Lanxess Canada, there were six CPAC members including myself. These members included Viv Delaney, Dr. Dan Holt, Sebastian Seibel-Achenbach, Ron Campbell, and Richard Clausi. Faisal Ali, reporter for the Woolwich Observer, was present, which was astonishing, but was present only for the first formal TAG meeting. Most of the others present including me did not recognize him as a reporter until we were told so after the meeting.
I thought Sebastian did a very good job with his presentation, pointing out problems and solutions about the “Gap” area during the formal TAG meeting. He advised clearly that the ground surface elevation as evidenced by the contour lines made it clear that the past large volume of Uniroyal Chemical wastewaters flowing south whether via “furrows” or the swale would have primarily turned eastwards following the lower elevations on their way to the Stroh property. Sebastian was critical of composite sampling because this kind of sampling can hide high concentrations of dioxins/furans and DDT by averaging them with numerous other soil samples that have much lower concentrations of these contaminants. He also agreed with me when I insisted on a more meaningful sampling would result if sampling the Stroh Drain directly versus Mr. Ansari’s idea of more sampling up gradient on the Lanxess property to allegedly prove or disprove the migration of dioxins/furans and DDT into the Stroh Drain and immediate area.
After the formal TAG meeting and during the discussions among me, Ramin, Dwight, and Lou Almeida, Tiffany Svensson pointedly advised us that the whole purpose of the meeting after the meeting was to determine if additional pathways existed for persistent organic pollutants to migrate into the Canagagigue Creek. Therefore, this after meeting discussion was necessary and helpful.
CPAC members were prevented from speaking at the formal TAG meeting. However, CPAC member Ron Campbell found a way to speak his mind and add the benefit of his expertise. Ms. Svensson had advised the Lanxess folks that they could stay for the whole TAG meeting or take a break outside in the hall while TAG finished its other business and that Lanxess representatives could then start discussing the “Gap” area, the Stroh Drain, the interceptor trenches, etc. Ramin Ansari, Dwight Este, and Lou Almeida retreated to the hall only to have Ron Campbell join them. I learned from Mr. Campbell that if he couldn’ speak inside the room as per the Pretend Mayor’s rules, then he sure as hell would speak outside the room. I expect that the Lanxess folks were somewhat taken by surprise by his speaking up. If they didn’t initially know who Ron Campbell was, they sure found out in a hurry.
My experience of Ron Campbell is that he is a man of good character and veracity. He is a longstanding professional in the environmental and health and safety fields. As previously mentioned, he and his firm Acute Environmental and Safety Services, emptied the Envirodome of its toxic wastes in 1999 and transported the contents to a secure hazardous waste landfill near Corunna, Ontario
Ron lectured the Lanxess folks about their reluctance to properly test the the “Gap” area and for their willingness to find different methods to delay doing the fastest and most obvious investigation of the Stroh Drain area. He confirmed that direct soil and sediment samples are the way to go. In other words, this nonsense about testing perhaps twenty-five to a hundred metres (82 feet to 330 feet) to the west back on Lanxess property was ridiculous. If, as seemed probable, the Stroh Drain had drained surface and ground water from both properties, then, Mr. Campbell urged them to test the sediments in the bottom of the Stroh Drain, the Creek bank soils, and the soils in the lowest lying area (i.e., the lowest elevation) just east of the Stroh Drain. Furthermore, testing the actual water in the Stroh Drain for contamination was definitely necessary, Mr. Campbell insisted. I made sure I participated in this hallway meeting. I had no intention of being left out and am glad that I did so. Richard Clausi also joined the meeting outside the Dodie Hummel Room.
If you are finding these procedures and segregation of meetings a bit bizarre with all the hoops and loops necessary to enable citizens such as Ron Campbell and I to speak to those in charge of the remediation of Elmira groundwater and the Uniroyal/Lanxess property, then you aren’t the only one. Sandy Shantz couldn’t have done a better job of mucking up public consultation unless she made her decision while under the influence of the recreational product she voted in favour of at a Woolwich Council meeting, to allow it to be sold in Woolwich Township.
There are two interpretations of Ramin Ansari’s willingness to speak directly to the longest serving and most outspoken critics of both the MOE and of Uniroyal/Lanxess managers. He could have, under the perverted Woolwich Township rules and terms of reference for TAG and RAC, simply ignored CPAC and me. He did not. Possibly, he wanted to ensure that he heard from all parties prior to final decisions and work being done on the Creek downstream from the Lanxess property. If that is the case, then kudos to Mr. Ansari.
However, dear reader, there is another possibility that a skeptic might find more likely, a skeptic like me. I make no apologies for being one after experiencing thirty years of deceit, deception, junk science, and frankly, political corruption. Is it possible that Mr. Ansari is looking down the road to the time after the Site Specific Risk Assessment and the accompanying remediation for the Canagagigue Creek is completed? Does he understand far better than Sandy Shantz, councillors, and the Woolwich Township senior staff that public consultation is both morally and legally required? Yes, most environmental public consultation in Ontario is tokenism and lip service at best, but it must at least appear to be credible. Sandy Shantz’s version of public consultation is simply beyond the pale and does not stand up to scrutiny now, never mind in the future.
We actually ended up having three meetings on January 24, 2019. The three meetings consisted of the formal TAG meeting in the Dodie Hummel Room beside the Council Chambers, the Ron Campbell verbal assault in the hallway upon Lanxess’s stick handling around proper testing of the Stroh Drain and area, and lastly the meeting after the formal TAG meeting back in the Dodie Hummel Room primarily between Ramin Ansari, Dwight Este, Lou Almeida and me. Most attendees stayed for the entire duration.
TAG members actually had a very brief discussion about relaxing their rules regarding delegations to TAG and comments or questions from the public. Congratulations to David Hofbauer and Sebastian Seibel-Achenbach for being in favour. Unfortunately, I predict that any future motion from TAG members on this matter likely will be shot down by Sandy Shantz and Woolwich Council. This example is a perfect one of a committee of council with some good members whose efforts are intentionally handicapped by the elected councillors’ either naivete or bad intentions.
The award for the most inane argument that night goes to Lou Almeida of GHD consultants although it was close for it to go to Ramin Ansari. Lou advised us that interviews with long-time Uniroyal Chemical employees never indicated that large quantities of Uniroyal wastewaters pumped to the east side pits then flowed southward and discharged onto the Stroh property. I contend that these employees likely couldn’t see it taking place four or five hundred metres away (thirteen to sixteen hundred feet) from where they worked. Second, I suggest that if they like their jobs, were they going to complain about these wastewater flows? Hardly.
Another inane argument was evident when Ramin Ansari repeatedly stated that to determine ground surface elevations (i.e., higher versus lower elevations) one should take a pail of water and pour it on the ground to see which way it flows. Had he said that only once, I would have chalked it up to heat of the moment and over enthusiasm. However, he said it two or three times. Three or four gallons of water would simply spread out perhaps over an area of five or six square feet at most and then soak into the ground. I would expect three or four hundred gallons of water to indicate some effects of gravity and flow towards a nearby lower lying area. This area is undeveloped bare ground, not asphalt or concrete, that would permit instantaneous flow of water downhill.
Lou Almeida of GHD made an interesting comment. He stated that the Stroh Drain doesn’t simply drain only the Stroh property. It drains several of Ron Stroh’s neighbour’s properties including properties north of Church Street. Once again absolutely zero proof or evidence was offered to back up some of Lanxess’s or GHD’s claims. As this meeting was planned more than a month in advance, his comment and lack of evidence seems bizarre to me. The Stroh Drain is on the extreme west side of the Stroh farm right next to the Lanxess property. The Canagagigue Creek flows primarily from west to east below (south of) the Stroh property and part of the Martin property. All the Stroh neighbours and farms are to the east and the ground surface flow is generally southward into the Canagagigue Creek. Those neighbours are unlikely to run a pipe to the far west side of the Stroh property in order to drain their properties into the Canagagigue Creek, which is due south of them. For the homes north of Church Street, any of the surface drainage would be into the Canagagigue Creek where it flows through and beside Bolender Park. Lou is partly correct. The Stroh property does drain one of the neighbour’s properties and that would be the only neighbour upgradient of them and who had wetlands in the past ten metres (thirty-three feet) away from the Drain, namely Uniroyal/Chemtura/Lanxess.
Lou Almeida also suggested to the TAG and CPAC members present at the meeting and including me that the Conestoga Rovers map that I rely on for ground elevations might be incorrect. One particular map titled, “Existing Conditions” in CRA’s May 2013 “Scoped Environmental Impact Study Remediation of Former Gravel Pit Areas (GP1 and GP2)“ has been remarkably helpful to me. The map itself states that it was updated with the latest survey done on April 8, 2013. Fortunately, however, it is by no means the only source of ground elevation contours available to me for the Chemtura/Lanxess 25 Erb Street property. Other contour maps include the one that Peter Gray of MTE Consultants included in his October 2014 report on the east side of Chemtura to CPAC. Several other contour maps are available and I referred to them all to give credence to the map I use. Second, with both the Creek and the Stroh Drain nearby, it is clear as to where the lowest ground elevations occur. The highest elevations in the south-east corner of the Lanxess site are the diagonal ridge, oriented in a north-west to south-east position, as well as the gravel road that runs down to GP-1 and GP-2 for the purpose of accessing and sampling monitoring wells in the area. The Stroh Drain is located within ten metres (thirty-three feet) of the extreme west side of Stroh’s property, which is many hundreds of metres wide. The only reason to locate that Stroh Drain right there is because that is where the surface water from both properties (Uniroyal Chemical and Stroh) naturally drains to.
Lou Almeida’s claim that the recently surveyed ground elevation contours on both the Lanxess and Stroh properties by CRA might be inaccurate is disturbing. Citizens expect honest and accurate information from professionals. After all, we do not have the legal right to go poking around on private property to do our own investigations. I believe that with the advance notice GHD had for this meeting any allegation of errors by their predecessors such as CRA should be backed up immediately with documented evidence. No such evidence has been presented to the public, CPAC, or me since the January 24, 2019 meetings..
Dwight Este suggested that the north to south line running from near the north end of the Lanxess property was a footpath to or from a house that used to be located off Church Street and now is part of the Uniroyal/Lanxess property. Indeed, there used to be a house located there; however, a former resident told me that there was no footpath that ran southward into the toxic waste site now known as Lanxess Canada. Why would there be? Furthermore, why would a mere footpath still be visible from satellite and aerial photographs? This lack of serious research on the matter by Lanxess is peculiar to me and to other citizens present at the meeting.
Lastly, at this meeting both Lou Almeida and Susan Bryant said that soil samples have been taken nearby over the last few decades. In fact, Ms. Bryant suggested that there were more recent soil samples from the area that were taken as part of the investigation for dioxins/furans and DDT in the two gravel pits, GP-1and GP-2. Again, from December 2018 when Ramin Ansari suggested this meeting never mind the over four years since CPAC members in October 2014 and I presented our concerns publicly to Chemtura and the MOE, why hasn’t this alleged relevant soil data been presented to us as evidence versus nothing more than verbal, off-the-cuff comments? If real evidence exists proving that Uniroyal Chemical wastewaters didn’t flow south-east from Uniroyal to the Stroh farm, then let’s see it. I am aware of the soil sampling that occurred primarily within GP-1 and GP-2 both in 2002 and again in 2012 and 2013. I am not aware of results that could possibly negate the bulk of the flow of overland wastewater from the east side pits, southward through the swale on the west side of those pits and into the wetlands and swampy area. Following the slope of the ground’s surface, the wastewater would use gravity to flow across the Uniroyal/Stroh border into the lowest lying area on the east side of the Stroh Drain. During heavy wastewater discharges from Uniroyal and/or during heavy precipitation or snow melt events, that area would fill and overflow and continue to drain southward until the wastewater joins with the natural spring-fed watercourse that goes through and by the Martin swimming pond on its way to discharging into the Canagagigue Creek further downstream. The man-made Stroh Drain, likely excavated around 1985, drains both the Lanxess and Stroh wetlands and swampy area. This drainage of the wetlands was inadvertently attested to by Jeff Merriman of Chemtura, during a public CPAC meeting late in 2014.
February 28, 2019 TAG meeting
The next TAG meeting occurred on February 28, 2019. It was at this meeting that Pat Mclean, on behalf of Lanxess, first broached the idea of a change in TAG’s mandate to accommodate Lanxess’s need for a citizen advisory panel (CAP) that was involved in day-to-day operations. Recall that Lanxess had already approached Sulco for a joint CAP with them on such matters. That approach was not going well as Sulco CAP members Rich Clausi and Dr. Dan Holt had direct knowledge of the games and lack of forthrightness exhibited by Chemtura and the other corporate iterations of Uniroyal Chemical.
Lou Almeida of GHD, consultants to Lanxess, also had some interesting comments at this February TAG meeting. He produced a report on former soil and groundwater testing allegedly in the “Gap” area between Lanxess and the Stroh property. I had adequate time to review some of his report and I found a number of inconsistencies and inadequacies in it. Regardless, TAG members rejected the report outright. They viewed it as simply another attempt by Lanxess management to avoid doing the necessary and obvious proper soil testing both along their border with the Stroh property and also in and around the Stroh Drain. Criticism came from many TAG members such as Chair Svensson and Sebastian and included criticism of composite sampling and mislocation of sampling area SS-20. I believe the testing of OW-14 was also somewhat deceptive for reasons I clarify later in this chapter. Test Pit 7 had a TEQ of 15 whereas the soil criterion more than 30 metres from a surface water body is 13 [ppt]. For the company to be dismissive of exceedances seems somewhat self-serving. I believe that TAG’s criticism and rejection of this GHD report may have led to the followup site tour of the area.
On March 8, 2019, I received an invitation from Ramin Ansari of Lanxess to attend a site tour to examine the “Gap” area next to the Stroh Drain. The original date and invitation for TAG members was Monday, April 1, 2019. Strangely, my private invitation turned out to be for Tuesday, April 2, 2019. What the hell was that all about? I responded to Ramin within a day or two and indicated that I also had learned that Vivienne Delaney, former CPAC member, and Michael Heitmann, videographer, had been refused their requests to attend the site tour. To his credit on March 14 Ramin Ansari amended the invitation to include Vivienne Delaney, Michael Heitmann, and I and as well to attend the same tour as the rest of the TAG members on April 1.
The Site Tour
The weather was truly nasty immediately prior to the scheduled April 1, 2019 Lanxess site tour so the tour was rescheduled for April 11, 2019 at 3 pm. with a RAC meeting scheduled after it for 5 pm. We met at the security office just off Erb Street in Elmira and then drove around to the entrance of the Envirodome off Church Street (Hwy #86). We had been previously advised by Mr. Ansari that cameras were not permitted on their property, which I was willing to abide by although at least one other attendee did not. We started on foot from the Lanxess north-east corner and walked due south along part of the old gravel road that was between the former pits (RPE 1-5) and the property line with the Stroh farm. No comments, historical information, or landmarks were provided by Lanxess or GHD personnel as we walked southwards towards the woods and former wetland area. For example, TPE-2 was on the right (west) side but we passed it without any comment being made. An unnamed small pond was not formally commented on either although it was noticed by a number of the attendees which included two Lanxess personnel, three GHD employees, Jason Rice of the Ontario MOE, five or six TAG members including Sebastian, Tiffany Svensson (Chair), Pat McLean, Susan Bryant, Joe Kelly and also Vivienne Delaney, Michael Heitmann and I. Furthermore, as we were tight to the property line, we did not see the swale that is on the west side of the former pits and is evident on satellite and aerial photos.
We entered the woods after being advised of a deer scraping by Dwight Este of Lanxess that was visible at the edge and who also advised of other wildlife inhabiting the area. We slowly drifted to the right (west) while following Lou Almeida and Ramin Ansari as we were told to do. I knew that we were moving away from the Stroh Drain, which I fully expected. Joe Kelly of TAG had what looked like a wrist watch but among other possible features it advised him of the ground surface elevation that he was standing on. I whispered to Joe that if he wanted to see the Stroh Drain that he needed to turn left and head towards that pile of earth barely visible through the trees. Joe did so all the while carefully checking his wrist elevation device as he, without authorization, wandered towards the Drain. Of course, other attendees as well as I followed Joe over to the now visible wire fence between the Stroh and Lanxess property.
It had been nearly five years since my previous visit to the Stroh Drain and things looked significantly different. That surprised me. First of all, the Stroh Drain was essentially empty versus my last visit when it was full of water and had estimated then that the water could easily be four feet deep. Turns out it was deeper than that and it was easy for me to see and judge because, despite a steady flow of water from the galvanized steel pipe, the water was not filling up the very large drain/ditch. From the Lanxess side of the fence, the Stroh Drain appeared to be closer to six feet (two metres) deep and probably ten to twelve feet (three to four metres) wide. It was tapered from those ten to twelve feet at the top to perhaps only a few feet wide at the bottom. What also surprised me was how much better the view was now in early April before either leaves or underbrush were able to obscure the view. It became clear to me that my estimate five years earlier that the Stroh Drain was within twenty metres (sixty-five feet) of the Chemtura/Lanxess property was incorrect. In fact, in 2019 I would say the Stroh Drain is barely ten metres (thirty feet) away from the Lanxess property line. Wow! For either representatives of the Ontario MOE or of Uniroyal/Crompton/Chemtura or Lanxess to suggest that any of them were unaware of the presence of the Stroh Drain over the last thirty-five years is beyond all credibility.
Ramin Ansari and Lou Almeida collected us stragglers from the Stroh Drain and started heading in a south-west direction away from the Drain. Soon we were heading uphill and I realized that this was the north-west to south-east positioned diagonal ridge of high ground that I had seen so many times on maps although only in person once or twice a few years previously. When we got to the top of the ridge, we turned left (south-east) and followed the ridge back towards the property line between the two properties. We could see the fence between the properties although it was in some disrepair and actually flat on the ground in certain places. At this point, Mr. Ansari turned to me and in front of all the TAG and other attendees asked if I agreed that this was the boundary between the Stroh and Lanxess property and hence the “Gap” area. I was shocked by his audacity because he is not a stupid man, yet this obviously was not the “Gap” area as he as well as Lou Almeida know perfectly well. This area was the high ground at the extreme south-east corner of the Lanxess property with perhaps only another fifty metres (one hundred and sixty feet) due south to the border with the Martin property. Mr. Ansari asked me to confirm if this area was the appropriate location to take the soil samples that TAG members, and I, had been requesting.
I hesitated and then said to him that I was trying to be diplomatic in my response to his question. He immediately said, “Forget that, tell me what you think,” which I did. I pointed north-east and suggested that the closest point to the “Gap” area was perhaps a couple of hundred metres (three hundred feet) over there. I do know that I used an expression that he didn’t immediately understand as I may have stated that there would be “buggar all” dioxins/furans or DDT ever found in this high ground location that came from overflowing of the five RPE pits further north of us. At this point he agreed to turn around and head downhill and walk north-east to find the Stroh Drain that we first encountered with Joe Kelly’s unauthorized stroll. In greater hindsight I expect that the failure of this attempt to disorient and confuse me and TAG members geographically, may be a part of the reason that the next RAC meeting scheduled for May 16, 2019 was postponed until September 5, 2019. Over the decades I have noticed that when the company’s credibility has taken a serious hit that they prefer to keep a low profile and avoid public meetings for a while.
It was at this point that Sebastian Seibel-Achenbach showed his mettle to me yet again. Unknown to us at first, he had stepped over the downed fence and stayed on the Stroh side of the property line. I didn’t see him until we were down off the ridge and close to the fence, a mere ten metres (thirty feet) from the Stroh Drain. Lo and behold, there was Sebastian on the other side of the four foot high wire fence. Well, both Ramin Ansari and Lou Almeida were quite upset and started yelling at Sebastian to get over onto our side of the fence and hence back onto Lanxess property. Sebastian did not respond verbally to them although he did walk over to the fence and put his hands on the top of it. He then shrugged his shoulders in apparent resignation that he was unable to jump the fence. He kept walking northwards, with us on the west side of the fence and he on the east side getting an excellent view of the Stroh Drain. Dr. Sebastian Siebel-Achenbach to my mind is always careful not to offend or frivolously ignore the wishes of others. Afterwards, I asked him why he had blatantly ignored the orders of where to walk from the Lanxess and GHD representatives on this site tour of private property. His response was that he knew that Dr. Dan Holt, Vivienne Delaney, and I had seen the Stroh Drain up close in 2014, nearly five years previously and he wanted that opportunity now. When Sebastian and I had walked up the Stroh Drain on the Martin property in 2015, we did not have permission from Mr. Stroh to go on his property and thus Sebastian had never seen the manmade most northern part of the Stroh Drain. He figured this might be his only chance and he wasn’t about to be so close without clearly seeing it. My response to him was that indeed the public interest sometimes needs to outweigh private rules and demands.
The RAC Meeting
The April 11 RAC meeting following the site tour was set for 5 pm. although it started a little late. I went home to change out of my muddy, dirty work boots and ended up throwing them out. They had literally, after nearly a decade of sitting on a shelf, disintegrated around my feet as I walked on this site tour. The rubber/synthetic soles had come apart in chunks and even the metal safety plate in the bottom of them fell out. Regardless I wouldn’t have missed this site tour for anything. So much was learned, confirmed and determined.
The RAC meeting this night was somewhat anticlimactic. Most of the discussion was in regards to the recently received, March 2019 Canagagigue Creek Investigation. The plethora of non–detect (ND) results were noted in the report and the important item that Joe Kelly had raised regarding the shovel versus coring sampling system was briefly mentioned. Tiffany Svensson, TAG Chair, did indicate that she was attempting to have an expert attend an upcoming TAG meeting, to discuss the incidence and rationale for so many ND in this GHD Creek report done on behalf of Lanxess. Jason Rice of the Ontario MOE also indicated that he would be requiring some kind of explanation from Lanxess and GHD in regards to this same matter.
Prior to this meeting I had spent considerable time reviewing and studying this report especially as I began to realize how poorly done it was. The draft version of it had come out a year earlier and, as I have long believed, the purpose of a draft version is less about giving stakeholders an opportunity to study and comment for inclusion to the final version as it is to draw out and extend the timeline for each and every report in the hopes that citizen stakeholders especially will forget what they read and objected to a year or two earlier in the Draft copy. That long-held opinion of mine was substantiated as I was a few hours into my review of the final version before I began to remember exactly how much I had disagreed with the draft version and why.
With the data provided in the March 2019 report I ended up taking a tally of the number of non-detects for sediment samples in the downstream Canagagigue Creek. There were approximately a thousand sediment samples taken at various sample locations and depths in the Creek. The parameters were dioxins/furans and DDT as well as the breakdown products of DDT, namely DDD and DDE. The dioxin and furan samples were all totalled to a toxic equivalency referred to as TEQ. This number in parts per trillion (pg/g) is the toxic equivalent of 2,3,7,8 tetrachlorodibenzo p dioxin (TCDD), the world’s most toxic dioxin. Of the total of approximate thousand sediment samples taken, eight hundred of the results were non-detect. The key with detection limits is that in order for them to actually assist in understanding the amount of contamination present in the natural environment -- whether soils, ground water, surface water, air, or even tissue residues -- they must be low enough to be able to capture formal government-mandated criteria and/or guidelines. For example, if the Ontario Drinking Water Standard (ODWS) for benzene in a treated municipal water supply is 5 ppb (parts per billion) and the method detection limit is 1 ppb, then essentially the laboratory is advising that they can successfully measure benzene in water as low as 1 ppb. In other words, benzene can be found at concentrations both below the ODWS, such as 1, 2, 3, or 4 ppb or well above the ODWS, such as 50, 100, or 1,000 ppb. This detection limit of 1 ppb for benzene is both appropriate and helpful in gaining an excellent understanding as to the relative toxicity of this compound in the water sampled.
The same is true in regards to method detection limits in sediments. For example, a detection limit of 1 part per billion (ng/g) makes sense for measuring the concentration of total DDT in the sediments in the bottom of the Creek. The criterion for these compounds in sediments within thirty metres /a hundred feet of a surface water body is 7 ng/g. Therefore imagine my surprise to see the detection limits that GHD used in this report. They were all over the map with the lowest detection limit being 20 (ppb) including many samples at 40 and 60 ppb and others as high as 100 and 120 ppb. Of what possible use are detection limits that are anywhere from triple the health and safety criterion to seventeen times higher than the legally mandated criteria? High detection limits like these simply hide criteria exceedances of toxic chemicals in the Creek and give the false impression that the Creek is less polluted than it is.
The worst offences against proper understanding of the massive extent of contamination in the Creek are in regards to sediment sampling and measuring because the criteria are so much lower for sediments than they are for soils. Organisms in sediments at the bottoms of creeks, rivers, and lakes are constantly exposed to whatever toxins are present, whereas organisms that inhabit the ground surface are not exposed constantly to the same soils and what may be just below the surface of them. Nevertheless, even the soil concentrations of toxins are affected as there are cumulative additions of different metabolites of DDT in order to obtain total DDD, total DDE, and total DDT. Hence, soil exceedances are also artificially diminished with the detection limits of 20 ppb.
There is yet another issue. I stated that laboratory detection limits for DDT compounds in sediments are between three and seventeen times higher than the Ontario Ministry of Environment criteria, also known as “Table 8” criteria. There are, however, federal criteria that are much lower than provincial criteria. They are called Interim Sediment Quality Guidelines (ISQG). The federal criteria are between half as large to only one seventh as high as provincial ones. Therefore, these high detection limits when compared to federal criteria are actually from five times higher to more than one hundred times higher.
Above and beyond the outrageously high method detection limits and their accompanying massive numbers of non-detects was the plethora of typographical errors in both the draft and final versions of this Canagagigue Creek Investigation reports. Table after table in the text at the start of the report repeated the same ridiculously inaccurate numbers as they had inaccurate minimum concentrations of .20 parts per million (ug/g) even when the maximum concentration column beside it had a lower number.
Revelations and Epiphanies
Just as my tour of the Stroh property looking for CBC film locations in May 2014 had been a revelation, so was this April 11, 2019 tour. These revelations five years later underscore why Rich Clausi, Ted Oldfield, and I were so successful in shutting down Varnicolor Chemical, an ongoing grossly polluting enterprise in 1992. It was citizens firsthand access to the contaminated site that made the difference. This access whether visual or physical was and is absolutely necessary for the simple reason that both the involved polluter and the designated government environmental authority at the time were dishonest, self-serving professional liars in gross conflict of interest positions. Throughout the investigation of Varnicolor procedures, the Ontario Ministry of Environment representatives simply did not honestly share incredibly important and relevant environmental, health, and safety information with either the general public or local stakeholders. In fact, as has been proven over and over again at situations related to both Varnicolor Chemical and Uniroyal Chemical, I contend that the MOE has knowingly and blatantly lied, apparently to minimize the extent of the contamination and environmental damage as well as to minimize their own culpability. This behaviour is especially relevant where their negligence is on full visual display after citizens have seen and provided incredibly strong visual evidence of illegal environmental activities on site that MOE inspectors and even investigation and enforcement branch personnel have seen and then denied seeing. At Varnicolor Chemical concerned citizens could view the Union Street site virtually at will despite the high fence around the property. We simply looked down upon the company’s yard from the vantage point of the roof of a commercial building immediately beside the property. The Lot 91 site at the eastern end of Oriole Parkway was a storage and dumping area, not a production or ongoing work space for Varnicolor. As such it was not staffed or supervised thus allowing anyone easy access.
Concerned citizens have never been granted access to cleanups done at the 25 Erb St. Uniroyal site. Nor have they been given access to clarify, confirm, or even refute satellite and aerial photos that appear to implicate the company in questionable and possibly illegal environmental activities. Everything concerned citizens such as myself receive is via verbal or written reports and at best is second or third-hand. Sometimes citizens receive photographs but even those can be challenged. Essentially, both the polluter and the alleged regulator (MOE) have a mutual monopoly on first-hand information, which they exploit unmercifully to deceive other parties, stakeholders, news media, and the public.
It took less than a week for me to better understand the significance of what I had seen on the April 11, 2019 Lanxess site tour. The size of the Stroh Drain, both its width and depth, assisted in my understanding of its local impact on ground and surface water. The fact that, despite the very wet spring, the drain was essentially empty of water surprised me as did the lack of surface water on the Lanxess side of the fence. I had to rethink my hydrogeological understanding of the groundwater flow in the shallow aquifer in this immediate vicinity. To start the process to clarify my understanding, I actually drew a sub-surface cross-section of the area on both sides of the border in order to realize why the drain was mostly empty even with the ongoing significant flow into it from the pipe at the northern end.
Next, I found another GRCA map showing the extent of the submerged areas on both properties during a 100-year flood event. A light came on. My goodness but the manmade mounds of soil resulting from piling the excavated earth for the Stroh Drain all along the east side of the drain actually must be an intentional berm. An intentional berm that contrary to Conestoga Rovers’ depiction of the 100-year flood plain was above the 100-year floodplain line. GHD had provided a map of the Lanxess property with the superimposed GRCA 100-year floodplain line and, above and beyond the already well-known north-west to south-east diagonal ridge of high ground, it turns out that this berm is also above the high water mark. Wow!
Recent evidence indicates the likelihood that the Stroh Drain was built in 1983 and not in 1985 as I had originally guesstimated. Not a bad guess, though, based on a time period from 1982 until 1988 when Uniroyal Chemical and the Ontario MOE were desperately trying to get Uniroyal’s house in order before the MOE had to out Uniroyal for their past forty years of gross pollution including air, soil, ground, and surface water. I have confidence in the credibility of my first-hand source for the 1983 date. Nevertheless, I still suggest that the date is not absolutely conclusive. My source was young at the time and impressionable and may have in the interim had inaccurate information fed to them. This 1983 date by the way is only about thirteen years after the last of the overflowing east side ponds were completely removed from service. While the new Elmira sewage treatment plant in 1965 was supposed to be the repository of Uniroyal Chemical production wastes, there were significant start up issues with industrial wastes in Elmira from textile companies and maybe other manufacturers that delayed the complete and final changeover in the disposal of liquid wastes until closer to 1970. Based on the new information I received from the April 11, 2019 site tour, I decided to rename the Stroh Drain. I now refer to it as the Stroh Drain, Ditch and Berm (SDDB).
As my thinking progressed after April 11, 2019, I began asking myself questions: Did Conestoga Rovers on behalf of Chemtura Canada intentionally hide the fact that the berm is higher than the 100 year floodwater level? If so, then why? Is there a purpose for the berm other than simply being a convenient place to put the earth from a ditch ten to twelve feet (4 metres) wide, six feet (2 metres) deep, and one thousand feet (three hundred metres) in length at least until it joins the natural spring drainage further south? Lastly, have I misunderstood the basic purpose of the Stroh Drain, Ditch and Berm? I felt in 2014 that it was intended solely to drain the awful mess of forty years of Uniroyal wastewaters from both its property as well as from the Stroh property. Was I missing something?
My conclusions to a certain extent may lesson my initial suspicions that both Uniroyal and the Ontario MOE had colluded in a scheme to divert highly toxic waste water to Uniroyal’s neighbour’s property as well as to divert its wastewaters so that testing of the Creek on its property did not pick up those discharges as they ended up in the Canagagigue Creek a few hundred metres further downstream. There is no doubt that the former wetlands on both the Lanxess Canada and Stroh property have been drained by the location and depth of the SDDB. Conestoga Rover’s May 2013 map (C-02) clearly labels these two areas as wetlands. Jeff Merriman, Manager for Environmental Remediation for Chemtura at the time, also publicly advised CPAC that this area was a former wetland but is currently in 2013 drained. It is the depth of the ditch and drain at six feet (two metres) combined with its careful integration into the further downstream and downgradient natural spring and waterway to the Creek that has so successfully drained this large area. The question is, however, is the only purpose of the SDDB to drain the toxic mess left behind as the Uniroyal wastewaters settled into the low lying wetland areas on both sides of the boundary between the two properties.
The SDDB would have quickly drained the soluble liquid wastes dissolved into the groundwater, the hydrophobic compounds would have continued to be bound to soil particles and unlikely to readily flow with the groundwater. They could be mobilized, however, as suspended sediments during heavy rain storms and especially so during the spring floods. Certainly the rampaging Canagagigue Creek was capable of scouring and eroding soils in these former wetland areas. In fact the entire Stroh Drain (SDDB) and area is shown to be submerged during a 100-year flood event. Aerial photographs provided by Conestoga Rovers from 1930, 1955, and 1968 show the path of the Canagagigue during lesser flood events. It clearly passes both south and north of the high diagonal ridge of land in Uniroyal’s south-east corner and then passes over to the Stroh property on its way back to rejoin the main channel of the Creek.
The lowest elevation of land on the north-east side of the high ridge of land that runs from the Lanxess property over onto the Stroh property is actually on the Stroh property, not the Lanxess property. Hence, as the wastewaters from the RPE 1-5 pits gravity-flowed overland, those wastewaters would have settled out in the lowest lying areas. The first area they would have entered likely would have been a small, shallow pond south of RPE- 5. Because this pond already held groundwater, it would have quickly overflowed and the next repository would have been the area on the immediate east side of the northern end of the SDDB. The ground elevation in this location falls from over 1100 feet (346 metres) above sea level to 345.5 and 345 metres above sea level. It has been my opinion for nearly the past five years that this area is a “sink” for hydrophobic, persistent organic pollutants (POPs) such as dioxins/furans, DDT, polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), and possibly even PCBs.
If I am correct, then the former Stroh Drain and now SDDB might well have been built for more than a drain in order to reclaim wetlands. Both the original Stroh family home as well as all the cultivated lands are located above even the 100-year floodplain line. Therefore, why turn wetlands into solid land if that isn’t going to increase arable land or further protect buildings? Keep in mind that this drain is also a ditch. It is a very big ditch, ten to twelve feet (4 metres) wide and six feet (2 metres) deep. That ditch most certainly would intercept any minor flooding and divert the water southwards and eastwards back into the main channel of the Creek. Then think about the high berm built behind this ditch. The ditch is six feet (2 metres) deep and the berm at least another six to eight feet (2 metres plus) high. The two combined would certainly intercept and redirect even a significant flood and its waters back into the main channel. Yes, a 100-year flood and even a fifty-year flood might flow around the bottom (south) end of the berm and submerge this “sink” area but what it wouldn’t do nearly as well is scour the “sink” area and flush the hydrophobic compounds downstream en masse. It is now my belief that this drain probably was designed, engineered, and built to actually slow down and mitigate the erosion of dioxins/furans and DDT from the “sink” area where they would quickly be transported into the Canagagigue Creek. That that flooding is still transporting some of them slowly, seems incontestable. To date, Crompton/Chemtura /Lanxess have reduced on-site creek bank erosion as best they can but these POPs continue showing up downstream in sediments, in creek bank and floodplain soils as well as in fish tissues.
On one hand, I can condemn Uniroyal Chemical managers for lying about the entire east side contaminant flow and I will condemn them for allowing their toxins to flow onto their neighbour’s property for eventual transport into the Creek. On the other hand, I can give them credit for coming up with an inexpensive “fix“ to their problem. I have serious doubts that the SDDB was solely the brainchild of the senior Mr. Stroh at the time. His further uphill (north) crops had been damaged for years by overflowing Uniroyal waste pits and it seems probable, as rumours state, that Mr. Stroh senior had received financial compensation for damaged crops. The engineering involved and the sophistication required for the size, depth, and placement of both the ditch and the berm to be effective does not seem to me to be luck. To my mind careful planning was involved for the exact position and construction of the SDDB. I can criticize, however, the fact that once discovered these POPs were not properly remediated and removed. It seems that these POPs have been slowly mobilized and transported into the Creek over the last thirty years despite a clever idea and its clandestine implementation.
One last thought on the matter of berms mitigating the effects of floodwaters mobilizing hydrophobic compounds. Several years back, Conestoga Rovers and Chemtura argued that wastewaters flowed firstly into GP-1 and then the leftovers into GP-2. They argued this pattern of flow based upon the much higher concentrations of dioxins/furans and DDT in GP-1 than in GP-2 and/or the surrounding areas. What if there was another manmade berm between GP-1 and the flooding Canagagigue Creek? What if this “berm” was actually the manmade roadway running from north to south along the east side of the Creek built in the early 1980s to allow trucks and personnel to go into the south-east wetlands at the time in order to service and monitor observation wells? This roadway out of necessity would have to be higher than the surrounding wetlands in order to transport vehicles and personnel through the wetlands. It certainly would not stop all floods from getting into GP-1 and removing some surface soils but it would reduce the effect of smaller, annual floods at least. Looking at the concentrations of contaminants in GP-1 versus GP-2 and surrounding areas I believe that this is why GP-1 had much higher concentrations of contaminants when tested prior to excavation in 2013. GP-1 was somewhat protected from flooding whereas GP-2 was not protected by the roadway at all as the roadway ended before being able to block any floodwaters at all from eroding surface soils in GP-2.
Next TAG Meeting
The last TAG meeting prior to the completion of this book was on May 9, 2019. Some of the information learned on the April 11/19 site tour was discussed at the May meeting along with other issues. The other issues included discussion of the GHD produced, on behalf of Lanxess, 2018 Annual Monitoring Report. A significant criticism of the report was the lack of a rationale by Lanxess’s consultants (GHD) for their suggested reductions in various groundwater monitoring programs currently in place. TAG members appropriately were not in support of these monitoring reductions. Tiffany Svensson on a number of occasions referred to “enhanced pumping” of the Elmira Aquifers. Due to the cringe worthy process forced on TAG by Sandy Shantz and Woolwich Council, I was unable to advise Ms. Svensson and TAG that there has been a whole lot more talk about “enhanced pumping” than actual increases in the off-site pumping. To this date, the so-called “enhanced pumping” is a non jaw-dropping 17% higher than it was in November 2012 when CPAC and the public were promised a tripling of the pumping. That promise by representatives of Chemtura Canada was later reduced to a doubling of the pumping of the Elmira aquifers. It’s never even been close.
Joe Kelly spoke to fellow TAG members and the public at the May 9, 2019 TAG meeting about the small depression/pond just south of the former RPE-5. It had water in it, which I believe is snowmelt, rain water, or likely groundwater at surface. My large display map shows the bottom of the pond having an elevation of three hundred and forty-six metres above sea level. Joe appeared to be leaning towards thinking that this tiny pond would have absorbed or intercepted the former toxic waste water discharges from the further north RPE ponds. Sebastian pointed out that the volumes of waste waters (he believes 163,000 gallons per day; I believe a little higher per day) would quickly overwhelm and overflow that pond and then flow across it down into the Stroh Drain, Ditch and Berm area. Nevertheless, it is likely that Joe is at least partially correct. It is quite possible that the small pond is a repository of some DDT and dioxin concentrations.
Tiffany Svensson and Sebastian got into quite a discussion and debate about where the admitted overland flow of wastewaters ended up. At one point, Ms. Svensson suggested that the wastewaters went into the flat, low-lying area of former wetlands on the Lanxess property and stayed there. Sebastian countered that with sufficient daily volumes the wastewaters would have gravity-flowed across that saturated area at the time (before the SDDB lowered the water table) over onto the Stroh property. The wastewaters would have flowed across the “Gap” area and just past where the SDDB now sits because the lowest ground elevations are on the immediate east side of the Stroh Drain. The lowest ground elevation areas are 345.5 and 345.0 metres above sea level (masl). The good news is that both Tiffany Svensson and Joe Kelly questioned the fallacy that all these wastewaters ended up solely in GP-1 and GP-2. Clearly, the higher elevation diagonal (north-west to south-east) ridge prevented that.
Lanxess’s latest distraction or intentional scam suggests that instead of sampling both the sediments in the bottom of the SDDB as well as the soils in and around the SDDB as Sebastian would like to have happen, they would test the water discharging at the bottom end of the SDDB into the Canagagigue Creek. Of course Lanxess and GHD haven’t advised ahead of time whether or not they would be removing the suspended sediments to which the dioxins/furans, DDT, and other POPs are attached. Either way it is just one more last ditch attempt quoting Susan Bryant “to adjust the science according to their needs.” The “sink” of dioxins/furans and DDT is likely on the east side of the SDDB in the previously mentioned 345.0 and 345.5 masl area. I wonder if there might be high concentrations buried in the berm as well. Given the slightest opportunity, however, Lanxess and GHD could very well fudge these samples just as they fudged the ones in the “Gap” area as well as further north. Composite sampling and/or averaging high concentrations with much cleaner soil appears to be Lanxess’s and GHD’s preferred standard operating procedure.
There is another reason why testing either the water or the sediments at the extreme southern end of the SDDB versus the soils in and around it beside the Lanxess property is a scam in my opinion. As I mentioned Sebastian and I walked up the Stroh Drain from its mouth into the Canagagigue Creek to the property border with the Stroh farm in 2015 with the permission of the Martin family. We saw firsthand the depth of remarkably soft sediments in the bottom of the Stroh Drain on the Martin property. We also saw places further north but still on the Martin property where the water flow was impeded by deadfalls, branches, etc. This impeded water flow area is exactly where sediments would be deposited along with any attached dioxins/furans and DDT. Yes, during floods or heavy water flows, the sediments would be remobilized. Why am I confident that Lanxess and GHD would sample the water at least, only during good weather and well after floods, storms and heavy rain? Because sampling then would greatly decrease the likelihood of finding these POPs.
The Remediation Advisory Committee meeting was scheduled for one week after the May 9, 2019 TAG meeting, namely on May 16, 2019. I had properly and formally booked myself as a delegation to this RAC meeting well in advance of even the May 9 TAG meeting. From this stakeholder’s position, I could see the fallout from the April 11, 2019 site tour. That site tour was a disaster for Lanxess Canada. Contrary to Lanxess’ wishes, photographs were taken by at least one TAG member. All the TAG members present plus videographer Michael Heitmann and CPAC members Vivienne Delaney, Sebastian, and I had seen the SDDB with our own eyes. Revelations and epiphanies occurred for many of us. Just before the May 9 TAG meeting, I was advised by Ms. Svensson that the RAC meeting would be postponed. We were not advised of the new RAC meeting date until a few weeks later. While the next TAG meeting would be on August 1, 2019, RAC was postponed until September 5, 2019.
In my experience it is not out of the question that both my scheduled delegation combined with the discoveries made by TAG members on the April 11 site tour and their greater understanding of the significance of the SDDB has given Lanxess and the MOE pause. Jason Rice of the MOE attended the April 11 site tour and to say that he was totally defensive and on high alert as I asked him questions about the SDDB is an understatement.
This chapter focuses on the first five months of 2019. An article in the Record early in January 2019 advised citizens that a soil cleanup was occurring on active farmland next to Lanxess and that Lanxess had approached Canada Colours (Sulco) to form a joint Citizens Advisory Panel (CAP) with them. Lastly, a bizarre and enlightening series of three meetings within one public TAG meeting occurred on January 24, 2019. The next TAG meeting on February 28, 2019 was also difficult for Lanxess because TAG members summarily rejected Lou Almeida’s and GHD’s report on historical sampling somewhat near the “Gap” area. The following month, after some stick handling, Viv Delaney, Michael Heitmann, and I were invited to attend a site tour along with the TAG members in April 2019. We believe the tour went badly for Lanxess Canada. Revelations and insights occurred both for me and others after the site tour and then the RAC meeting scheduled for April 16, 2019, one week after the TAG meeting, was postponed. Very peculiar it seems to me.
The next chapter is a summary of the environmental woes in Elmira, conclusions, and insights for the future.
ENDNOTES for Chapter 26
224 Cartoon by Scott Arnold, “The View From Here”, Woolwich Observer, December 6, 2018,p.6.
225 Jeff Outhit, “Cleanup launched after Elmira chemical factory taints farm next door”, Waterloo Record, January 4, 2019