TABLE OF CONTENTS
174.....The Ghost of Severin Argenton Stirs
176.....Councillors Election Woes Continue
176.....Good news and Bad News
The Waterloo Region Record published a story on May 2, 2016 titled “Town pushes Feds on creekwater."205 This article, of course, was due to the efforts of Dr. Richard Jackson and the TAG committee. Dr. Jackson had been chair of TAG since September 2015. He had attended at most three quarterly RAC meetings and several more TAG meetings which gave him the opportunity to take the measure of the other parties present at the table. I believe this may have been why he was trying to get the Federal government involved in the cleanup of the Canagagigue Creek. Another reason may have been the earlier informal meeting involving Dr. Jackson, Dr. Henry Regier, myself, and one other. Remember that Dr. Regier in 2004 of course had applied to the Auditor General of Canada asking the federal government to step in to assist in the cleanup of the Uniroyal site.
Dr. Jackson had spoken with the Kitchener-Conestoga riding MP Harold Albrecht about approaching the current federal government on the matter. Mr. Albrecht is a member of the Conservative Party of Canada. I believe that Sandy Shantz on behalf of Woolwich Township may also have been involved in that exercise. Nevertheless as expected it went absolutely nowhere. Dr. Jackson especially wanted greater efforts to test suspended sediments for persistent organic pollutants (POPs) such as DDT and dioxins/furans. He also strongly advocated for Hatfield Consultants to be involved in any and all work in Elmira dealing with dioxins. Hatfield Consultants have extensive expertise which includes major work in Vietnam cleaning up dioxin contamination. Two days later the Record’s own editorial titled, “Toxic Time Bomb Must Be Defused “ was published calling on both the Ontario and federal governments to step up and fulfill their responsibilities.206 The editorial also suggested that Environment Canada, as the lead federal agency with environmental responsibilities, should assume its proper and rightful place in both investigating and remediating the Canagagigue Creek. What was undisputed was that the dioxins/furans in the Creek were the direct result of Uniroyal Chemical producing Agent Orange for the U.S. military during the American War on Vietnam. DDT production had also been part of the war effort for multiple countries during the Second World War as troop casualties decreased after DDT spraying in the Pacific theatre greatly reduced malaria infections.
The Ghost of Severin Argenton Stirs
The former Varnicolor Chemical site at 62 Union Street in Elmira (between First and Howard Avenue and running along Union Street) was up for discussion at a public meeting held May 19, 2016 in Woolwich Council Chambers. The discussion was part of a risk assessment insisted upon by the MOE West Central Region as part of Elmira Pump’s attempt to obtain a Record of Site Condition (RSC) from the MOE. Elmira Pump and its owners Jim Germann and Joey Kuntz had purchased the 62 Union Street property from Phillip Environmental Inc. in 2001. Mr. Germann had extensive experience operating a water treatment facilitiy from his prior employment at Kuntz Electroplating Inc. in Kitchener. Elmira citizens were advised that the shallow groundwater on this Elmira property would require approximately ten years of pumping and treating in order to successfully remediate the sub-surface contamination. Seems to me the Ontario MOE misled the public and I expect probably misled Elmira Pump as well. Now, in late 2018, the site still is not remediated. However, in hindsight that is not really a surprise.
The MOE had initially insisted on a full areal and vertical delineation of the contaminants on the Varnicolor property which was included in the control order that it laid on Severin Argenton, the owner of the then Varnicolor Chemical. To sweeten the pot to get Phillips Environmental to buy the property, MOE officials removed the requirement that deeper soils be investigated. Phillips management were not fools and knew just from the free phase LNAPLs and DNAPLs in the surficial aquifer that most likely the volumes of spilled or dumped solvents had migrated both laterally and vertically. Free phase non aqueous phase liquids exist only in the sub-surface when their volumes are such that the groundwater is not able to readily and immediately dissolve the solvents. Once the release of chemicals has stopped it can take years or even decades for the migrating groundwater to fully dissolve the LNAPLSs or DNAPLs.
The Waterloo Region Record published an article written by reporter Paige Desmond (May 21, 2016) titled, “Chemical site still concerns Woolwich.” This report concerned the May 19th public meeting held in Council Chambers. Jim Germann readily admitted that while the shallow soil and groundwater was now in acceptable condition the same was less true the deeper they dug on the site. I would suggest that neither the surface excavations in 1995 nor the pump and treat system at that time had any immediate impact on the deeper contamination. The deeper contamination both in the aquitard and the municipal upper aquifer would over the decades have received a small amount of flushing from precipitation that went vertically downward on the site. The bulk of the precipitation, however, would have travelled laterally (horizontally) both under natural gradients as well as by the effect of the surficial pump and treat system.
I am mentioned in this May 21, 2016 Record article because I had worked at Varnicolor Chemical in the late 1980s briefly as a still operator but mostly as a fork lift operator and labourer.207 I had blown the whistle on them as polluters described back in Chapter Two. Varnicolor Chemical was the first contaminated site that I had examined, reviewing hydrogeological reports and other technical studies that investigated the sub-surface contamination as well as propose remediation. Since that time, I have physically worked on one other contaminated site namely the former Strauss Fuels which is at the north end of Elmira and beside the Canagagigue Creek. I worked for Quantum Environmental who had been contracted to clean up the site and my duties there while variable did include regular operation and maintenance of the on-site groundwater treatment system. By 2018 I have studied likely dozens of reports regarding other contaminated sites located mostly but not completely in southern Ontario.
Mayor Shantz got a little excited at this public meeting and in fact her behaviour was quite odd. She literally didn’t have a clue what she was talking about but it was entertaining because of that. Entertaining that is, for a few citizens in the know but I imagine Mr. Germann and Mr. Kuntz wondered what the hell the mayor was doing. She mumbled on about macro versus micro views of contamination and a lack of a direct pathway to people and then she reversed herself suggesting that this lack of a pathway means that “They may not be leaching out into an area that is of concern today but at some point they have to go somewhere and where is that."208 While I don’t think that her concerns are invalid I do know that if I or CPAC members had ever attempted to critique Chemtura in that same uninformed, wishy-washy, subjective way Chemtura would have laughed themselves silly. There is another concern. Elmira Pump representatives had given Dr. Dan Holt, my daughter and me, and a couple of other CPAC members a heads up on this risk assessment including a private viewing of the technical data a week or so before the public meeting. This effort was a little over a month after Woolwich Council had taken a shellacking from the news media in regards to their attempted censorship policy towards Dr. Holt and me (as described in the previous chapter). Could Mayor Shantz, seeing the relaxed atmosphere between myself and Elmira Pump representatives, have decided to get a little payback? Could her uninformed criticism of the risk assessment results been simply pettiness once again raising its head? In other words, if I’m generally okay with an environmental plan does she then feel the need to oppose it on general principles? I hope that this is not so because it’s not fair to the third party involved.
Jim Germann also made a very telling comment, suggesting that the surficial aquifer contamination at the former Varnicolor Chemical site was so bad that it didn’t need to be measured in the standard units of parts per billion or parts per trillion but actually could be measured in ounces per gallon. That is incredible contamination in the natural environment and describes the situation in which free phase solvents are floating on the surface of the water table (i.e., LNAPLs). I am repeating this story from Chapter Two because I believe that it is that important. Contamination of that magnitude obviously requires vertical delineation in the sub-surface and the MOE did its best to see that that did not happen but also to falsely advise APT and the public that it was not necessary. That action was a cover-up, plain and simple.
At this May 19, 2016 meeting attendees also learned that there were a half dozen solvents from Varnicolor operations deep in the sub-surface whose concentrations exceeded Ontario drinking water standards. These chemicals were the ones Mr. Germann admitted to, albeit he did not know what should be done about them if anything. It was the reporting done by the Woolwich Observer on May 26, 2016 by Liz Bevan that mentioned the half dozen solvents deep in the sub-surface.209 What neither article mention is the pathetic testing done for NDMA in the deep sub-surface of this 62 Union Street site. As of 2016, only one sampling had been done for NDMA immediately above the upper municipal aquifer. To be more specific, only one deep well on the entire site has been sampled just above the Municipal Upper Aquifer, and only tested once. Both these newspaper accounts also clearly indicated that a final risk assessment would be publicly released and that Elmira Pump’s efforts to obtain a RSC would then come to fruition. Again nearly three years later there is no imminent completion or release date for the approved risk assessment or the Record of Site Condition.
The six toxic chemicals found just above the municipal upper aquifer on the Varnicolor site are trichloroethylene (TCE), vinyl chloride, dichloroethylene (DCE), trichloroethane (TCA), dichloroethane (DCA), and toluene. All of these chemicals are originally from the Varnicolor Chemical surface soils and surficial groundwater and I was shown the text of the risk assessment by two different staff of Peritus Environmental, consultants to Elmira Pump. For them to be found more than twenty years later after the sources were removed including shallow soil excavations and decades of shallow pump and treat is amazing. Additionally the site is not paved nor covered, which means that any sub-surface contaminants have had the benefit of both rainfall and snow dilution as well as natural attenuation. Finally, of course citizens do not yet have the Elmira Pump risk assessment report to be studied carefully and properly courtesy of the Ontario MOE. If there were only two deep boreholes and monitoring wells installed over the whole site, then I have reason to believe, the complete picture is still missing. It is virtually impossible for two boreholes approximately a maximum of six inches in diameter to be indicative of the sub-surface contamination of an entire industrial site. Regardless the existence and location of these six chemicals decades later at greater than Ontario drinking water standards is the smoking gun indicating that Varnicolor Chemical contributed toxic contamination to the Elmira drinking water aquifers. This fact is exactly what the MOE have always tried to avoid making public. Oddly, the MOE seem to deeply resent my and Richard Clausi’s efforts especially with regards to this site. APT personnel not so much despite Mr. Clausi, Ted Oldfield and myself being members of APT at the time.
Councillors Election Woes Continue
During 2016 and until January 2017 I was simultaneously pursuing transparency and accountability of half of Woolwich Councillors through the courts. MECAC, of course, had proven their lack of worth both in regards to Councillor Scott Hahn as well as Mayor Shantz, as previously described. Therefore, starting in the fall of 2015, I went to Superior Court in Kitchener as per directions provided by the Municipal Elections Act (MEA). The courts certainly were not user-friendly and, in fact, the process for citizens to access them is nothing less than shameful. I found the staff was unhelpful in the extreme, the rules and times available were ridiculous (Fridays only), and the Justices of the Peace seemed to have zero experience dealing with citizens attempting to access their rights under the MEA. The-out-of-town Crown Prosecutor Fraser Kelly was beyond contemptible in my opinion. He was rude and disrespectful in court and in a private meeting where he had asked to personally interview me. This meeting was held at the Waterloo Regional Police headquarters on Maple Grove Road. Mr. Kelly also seemed to feel the need to have a plain clothes police officer present during the interview which he had not told me about ahead of time. Mr. Kelly worked much harder at trying to incriminate me due to a private recording made at a public MECAC meeting held in council chambers than he did trying to follow or understand incriminating evidence against Mayor Shantz under the MEA.
Michael Carnegie, the second Crown Prosecutor I worked with, was much better. This meeting was in relation to charges laid against Councillor Scott Hahn. When I say much better I admit that superficially better might be more accurate. Mr. Carnegie was generally respectful, polite, and professional. He, unlike Mr. Kelly, was complimentary towards me at the final court appearance in late January 2017. Mr. Carnegie suggested that it was good for democracy and the MEA to have citizens step up and exercise their civic rights and responsibilities under that legislation. Alternatively, Mr. Kelly simply criticized, insulted, and blamed me for Sandy Shantz’s inability or unwillingness to follow the law.
Both prosecutors unfortunately came to the same conclusion, Mr. Kelly with vinegar and Mr. Carnegie with sugar. Both of them were wrong. Both stated that it was not in the public’s interest to pursue charges against elected Woolwich politicians who had major failures, discrepancies, and inaccuracies in their legally mandated Electoral Financial Statements. Mr. Hahn’s case was both blatantly inaccurate and there was later evidence that some stick handling of facts and/ or family collusion may have occurred as he attempted to “fix” and explain his errors. Unlike Councillor Hahn, Ms. Shantz had submitted Electoral Financial Statements before, both as a Woolwich councillor and as a Woolwich school board trustee. Hence, I found her numerous consistently self-serving errors to be very suspicious. This behaviour also included her failure to fully abide by the conditions that Justice David Broad mandated in July 2015 in order for her to be reinstated to the position of mayor of Woolwich Township. There was also the not small matter of Ms. Shantz misinforming Justice Broad in her affidavit when she claimed to have provided the Municipal Elections Compliance Audit Committee (MECAC) with new Electoral Financial Statements and a personal audit three days before a public MECAC meeting. She handed out these thirty pages of documents both to MECAC and myself, the complainant, ten minutes prior to the start of the meeting.
Good News and Bad News
The year 2016 was filled with both highs and lows. The well-deserved public beat down laid upon Mayor Shantz and her band of not so merry councillors regarding the censorship issue was classic. The discovery of decade’s overdue and non-transparent, deep monitoring results on the former Varnicolor Chemical property was enlightening. In July 2016, Jeff Merriman on behalf of Chemtura Canada made the public brag that the long promised expanded off-site pump and treat system should be up and running by the fall. Alas, it was not to be. Yes, a couple more pumping wells were brought on line but their pumping rates started out pathetically and slowly escalated to less than a joke. The November 2012 promises by Mr. Merriman and Chemtura Canada regarding a tripling of the off-site pumping rates haven’t come close to reality. Later, downgraded brags of doubling the off-site pumping rates never came close either. What were they thinking?
More bad news appeared. Dr. Jackson had continued his assault upon puffery and hot air throughout 2016. In July 2016, Dr. Jackson was quoted in the Waterloo Region Record advising that rather than thirty years being required to clean up the Elmira aquifers to drinking water standards, that it would more likely take fifty years.210 He also suggested that the initial estimate of thirty years likely wasn’t a serious, researched estimate. It was simply Uniroyal and Conestoga Rovers & Associates assuring the public that for many of them they would never live to see the ultimate cleanup.
Days later in July 2016, I discovered a bullet hole in one of our upstairs bedroom windows. Well, thank you very much Scott Hahn, I recall thinking. I did contact the Waterloo Regional Police and I will say that the officer took heroic measures attempting to find the projectile whether a lead bullet, a ball bearing, or even a high-powered pellet gun projectile. The projectile penetrated the outside layer of glass but not the inside layer. I expect that it was fired from ground level upwards towards the upstairs bedroom window where despite breaking the outer pane it then ricocheted. The police officer could see the broken glass sitting between the two panes but the projectile was not there. The timing of this shooting was interesting in that, as I recall, it was only a day or two after a scheduled court appearance for myself and Mr. Hahn. As much as I initially felt that he had done the deed, it could not be proven. I had not informed the news media about this incident although a few months later a friend apparently let it slip to the Record who called me for confirmation. I am not terribly surprised or saddened by Mr. Hahn’s abrupt resignation from Woolwich Council eight months before the 2018 municipal election.
Other bad news appeared in September 2016 at a public RAC meeting. Dr. Jackson, Chair of TAG, announced his upcoming resignation. That shocked and deeply saddened me. The departure of Scott Hahn from municipal politics was absolutely to my mind no loss to the public interest whatsoever. The scheduled departure of Dr. Richard Jackson, however, was devastating to me and I felt to the entire community. He had, in my opinion, single-handedly turned the remediation of the Elmira aquifers as well as the Canagagigue Creek completely on its head. He had unilaterally, albeit with TAG furiously hanging on to his coattails, put both the Ontario MOE and Chemtura Canada into a defensive posture yet again. CPAC had worked them over from June 2011 until October 2014 when Chemtura Canada and the MOE fled the battlefield with their tails between their legs. In the ensuing months from November 2014 until September 2015 when Dr. Jackson became the first TAG chair, they’d recovered their chutzpah, their arrogance, and their sense of self-entitlement. Dr. Jackson, professionally and thoroughly eviscerated those attitudes in a year. I have no difficulties bragging about what CPAC and SWAT did but I bow to the master, Dr. Richard Jackson. His resignation became effective December 31, 2016.
By October 2016, the bad news was replaced with some good news. The Record, which had long ago stopped covering CPAC meetings, was still interested however. On October 21, 2016, they reported on a GHD Report regarding testing that was finally going to be done on the Stroh farm, at Chemtura’s eastern border.211 Since the previous year’s testing on the Chemtura side of its border had dioxins/furans and DDT well above the criteria, no one was going to be surprised to see detections of these same chemicals on the Stroh property. Of course, the proposed testing was inadequate both in vertical (depth) and lateral (areal) extent. Chemtura Canada and its consultants kept the soil and groundwater testing very close to the border with Chemtura. GHD and Chemtura’s claim was that there were decreasing concentrations from zero metres out to nine metres away from the border; therefore, there wasn’t any contamination past that point. That and their refusal to test for dioxins deeper than 15 centimetres on the Stroh farm was typical, self-serving junk science as far as I was concerned. They also failed to properly test the “Gap” area yet again.
The Record then followed up this article with an editorial a week later titled, “Get serious about Elmira cleanup."212 The editorial demanded items such as a rigorous investigation of the Stroh farm, a precise cleanup schedule for the Canagagigue Creek, and reassurances that the 2028 Elmira groundwater deadline will be met. Late in 2018, none of these have been met. Both the October 20, 2016 article and the October 28, 2018 editorial make it clear that members of the Citizens Public Advisory Committee were right in their claims of off-site contamination from Uniroyal/Chemtura onto the Stroh farm and as Paige Desmond, Record reporter, states “The test results are an “I told you so"213 for members of the Citizens Public Advisory Committee.”
In January 2017 both TAG and the general public were introduced to Tiffany Svensson, the new TAG Chair. She is a senior hydrogeologist at BluMetric Environmental Inc. in Kitchener, Ontario.
The past year of 2016 was a strange one with the presence of Dr. Jackson as Chair of TAG along with bullet holes, court dates for councillors and more bad news regarding shoddy investigations and delays in clean up of the aquifers. During late 2015 and all of 2016 I was absolutely thrilled to see a real professional in a position of authority, versus what had been generally inflicted upon Elmira residents for so many decades by Chemtura/CRA and the Ontario MOE. With the appropriate spectacle of public humiliation for Woolwich Township Council closely followed by the Varnicolor Chemical revelations and finally the last days of Dr. Jackson as TAG Chair; it truly was a back and forth year. The upcoming chapter will deal with conflicts of interest, Dr. Neil Thompson, University of Waterloo, fish tissue testing, another purchase of Uniroyal/Chemtura and finally serious methane issues in the Bolender Park Landfill.
ENDNOTES for Chapter 22
205 Paige Desmond, “Town pushes feds on creek water”, Waterloo Region Record, May 2, 2016, p.A1.
206 Editorial, “Toxic time bomb must be defused”, Waterloo Region Record, May 4, 2016
207 Paige Desmond, “Chemical site still concerns Woolwich”, Waterloo Region Record, May 21, 2016,p.B1.
209 Liz Bevan, “Environmental assessment the first step in development plans for former Varnicolor Site”, Woolwich Observer, May 26, 2016
210 Paige Desmond, “Water cleanup won’t meet deadline”, Waterloo Region Record, July 26, 2016, p.B1.
211 Paige Desmond, “Chemtura starts offsite chemical probe”, Waterloo Region Record, October 21, 2016
212 Editorial, “Get serious about Elmira cleanup”, Waterloo Region Record, October 28, 2016
213 Paige Desmond, “Chemtura starts offsite chemical probe”, Waterloo Region Record, October 21, 2016
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