This Blog will discuss politics, government, corruption, police, S.I.U., courts, education, min. of attorney general, min. of labour, v.o.i.c.e. and other current and past events of interest to concerned citizens. In the "About me" section to the right and down I have included the names of persons whom I have tremendous respect for. Their influence on me however has been primarily environmental (and personal) and this is therefore a disclaimer that all words posted on this Blog/Website are mine and I alone am responsible for them. I say this with the greatest respect and affection to my friends.
Saturday, October 12, 2019
ELMIRA WATER WOES: THE TRIUMPH OF CORRUPTION, DECEIT, AND CITIZEN BETRAYAL
TABLE OF CONTENTS
227.....Media and Judicial Issues
227.....Some Light at the End of the Tunnel
The title of this book is “The Triumph of Corruption, Deceit and Citizen Betrayal: The Elmira Water Crisis.” The corruption I refer to in the title of this book is both corporate and government corruption. This corruption is not necessarily evident by brown paper bags full of cash. It might be as little as a bottle of whiskey to an MOE abatement officer or as little as that same officer or even a MOE Investigations and Enforcement Branch officer hiding pollution evidence from the public in case their superiors are under political direction to minimize environmental infractions from a particular company to keep another local company securely on the legal hook.
Deceit can include fraud. It can mean brazen lying to the public either for monetary reward or for status or improved credibility. Deceit can be the purview of an individual polluter such as Uniroyal Chemical, the regulator (MOE), and governments (Woolwich Township, Region of Waterloo, province of Ontario). It can also be used by self-serving citizens looking for status, authority, and self-importance. Deceit essentially means lying. It is a part of corruption as in the example of a MOE officer lying to the public by either denying or hiding important evidence from public knowledge strictly for political purposes, not to avoid compromising a legal case.
Identifying citizen betrayal is tricky. Does this citizen betrayal mean corporate polluters and their regulators’, betraying the public trust? I think not as I am hard pressed to believe that there is such a thing as the public trust for corporations despite their very best public relations bodies such as the Chemical Industry Association of Canada (CIAC) who would tell us otherwise. Certainly the MOE have been grossly deceitful to both Elmira citizens and undoubtedly others living near environmental disasters and crises.
To me citizen betrayal means more than just a government regulator’s betrayal of the public trust. Citizen betrayal occurs when a private citizen uses an environmental crisis as a personal political launching pad. I observed two people who failed as mayoralty candidates for local Woolwich Township government. The second person however was a Woolwich Councillor years before she claimed to be an environmentalist. The other actually was elected to local Council while holding a responsible position for a citizens’ grassroots environmental group. I believe that there were three citizen betrayals although only two were in order to achieve personal political success.
The corporate corruption I’ve seen in Elmira and Waterloo Region includes environmental consultants who forever spin environmental bad news and present it in the most positive light. This positive light includes gilding the lily as far as how readily the bad news can be contained or cleaned up to meet any MOE criteria. It includes finding exceptions to the rule that financially benefit the client. It includes instructing consultants not to do air tests at certain times of the day or to ensure that they are using an outmoded computer model that is likely to understate contaminant concentrations. It includes sampling surface waters by filtering out suspended sediments in the water that adversely increase the toxic load to life in a creek and then sampling the filtered water and presenting it as the surface water results. It becomes commonplace to Instruct environmental consultants to use published scientific literature that nullifies citizen claims regarding toxicity, mobility, persistence of certain compounds and/or whatever else benefits the corporation. It certainly is mandatory for corporate decision-makers to criticize or undermine any scientific literature that is contrary to its self-serving agenda. This biased selection reminds me of the claims from tobacco companies who for decades insisted that smoking was not harmful to people’s health and that doctors who said otherwise were merely unnecessary worry-warts.
Obviously, lying to the public on an ongoing basis is a major part of corporate corruption. A corporation’s loyalties are first to its shareholders and then to senior management. Lying to the public entails denying a problem, minimizing all environmental problems and issues, and presenting junk science whenever it can benefit corporate interests. As Susan Bryant once told me, “One adjusts the science according to one’s needs.”
Corporate corruption includes influencing local politicians as well as local citizens. This influence does not need to be either honest or forthright. This influence can be either positive or negative. A corporation can offer cash, off-the-books donations for upcoming elections and can publicly offer to contribute to a local fund-raising campaign for an arena or other public building. Corporate executives can threaten a local council with job losses if strict environmental enforcement should occur. Executives can also threaten to give election expense donations to politicians’ opponents and add or hold back on promised funding of a public park or recreational building.
Manipulating citizens is even easier. Simply puff them up. If a citizen emerges as an advocate for a group or the public on an environmental issue related to corporate operations then invite them to a private meeting. Impress them with access to senior management. Imply that that access would be ongoing and exclusive to the right citizens. Let them know that co-operation is essential and that more flies can be caught with honey than with vinegar. Some citizens will bite and others won’t. Those who aren’t impressed or who immediately realize what corporate management is doing will simply be relegated as general input from public meetings, never anything more serious. “Special” committees can be struck for separate environmental issues such as the Excavated Wastes Working Group (EWWG). This committee were designated by Uniroyal Chemical executives, hosted by them, and flown around Canada and the U.S. allegedly to examine hazardous waste disposal sites. It was nothing more than a junket or a method of keeping handpicked citizens on board and whose special status in the community was reinforced.
Corporate corruption includes company personnel being in charge of the cleanup from beginning to end, not an objective separate body. It includes lobbying provincial politicians to continue to ensure that environmental legislation never changes the polluter’s ability to control its own cleanup. Yes, corporations have to have some measure of acquiescence from the MOE but the Ontario MOE has proven itself to be trainable as well as easily embarrassed. It is my experience that MOE officials will roll over on almost anything in order to save face with the public. After all, they are an intentionally underfunded ministry of the provincial government and as such routinely are outspent by multinational corporations in hiring consultants, lawyers, and other experts.
Corporate corruption includes the will and the means to thin out citizen critics. This culling could include job blacklisting of particular local citizens as well as advising political friends not to appoint them to volunteer, municipal environmental committees. It could include using special citizen friends to undermine however they can what they perceive as citizen threats to their own elevated status. This elevated status may be either due to their rank and file efforts or due to actions of the polluter, its regulator, and/or the local council.
Examples abound of corporate corruption (Uniroyal/Crompton/Chemtura/Lanxess) over the last three or four decades in Elmira. Examples of misusing consultants and lying to the public include the following environmental issues and failures described throughout this book such as: DNAPLs, the Canagagigue Creek cleanup, UACTS, SSRA, Optimization, Off-Site CTS, Stroh and Martin farms, and the lack of source removal including DNAPLs.
Government corruption may or may not be just as despicable and nasty as corporate corruption but one thing I know for sure is that government corruption is a far more morally, heinous behaviour. We the citizens through our taxes pay for our governments and we expect them to be working in our interests. This expectation, of course, is a fantasy about democracy. Our governments no more work for us than governments in Russia, Syria, and Saudi Arabia work on behalf of their citizens. All governments work on behalf of the wealthy and powerful elites in the country. If those elites can be convinced that the betterment of their fellow citizens will also benefit them, then progress for all can ensue. This government corruption can be at the municipal level (Woolwich Township), regional (Region of Waterloo), provincial (Ontario and the MOE) and finally federal (Canadian government). In my opinion all four levels of government have been guilty of corruption in Elmira, Ontario, albeit at incredibly varying levels and intensity. I give the nod to the Ontario MOE first and foremost with Woolwich Council coming in a strong second in the corruption department.
Government corruption entails the same five conditions or behaviours as corporate corruption. These conditions are having a quasi monopoly over the cleanup method, extent, and of being able to exclude the public both physically from accessing contaminated sites or vantage points as well as having a monopoly on data, reports, and other information. While lying to the public and engaging in junk science are very effective, occasionally the MOE runs up against citizens with equal or better technical abilities and experience than its own. Hence it is very important for the MOE in conjunction with the polluter to be able to control physical access to sites that the public strongly suspect are a public heath menace. The province and the MOE must decide if a call for a health study of the area may undermine their claims of minimal threat to public health. They must keep citizens at a distance for fear that citizens might take soil or water samples and thus prove a site is hazardous to any life. This evidence can set back both the company and the MOE’s message of either no problem or only a superficial, easily remedied problem that is completely under control. Neither of the two guilty parties wants the public or media to ever come to understand that environmental protection for them is more a slogan than a reality.
The other condition or behaviour associated with government corruption and similar to corporate corruption is influencing local politicians as well as a few key local citizens who preferably are not identified as political. Lastly, of course, is the necessity and willingness in the government’s mind to chop down any citizen activists who aren’t amenable to government and/or corporate charms and perks.
While government corruption is primarily provincial and exercised through the Ontario Ministry of Environment, it also includes municipal and regional governments. In my opinion local governments on the side of citizens are absolute disasters for the MOE. The MOE through the provincial government absolutely must have the local politicos onside or the whole, carefully constructed charade and façade of the polluter and regulator collapses.
Here in Elmira, the regional government refused a health study that likely would have exposed the damage and duration of contaminated drinking water and air in the community. (Similarly, the regional government did not conduct a desperately needed health study in the Bishop Street community of Cambridge where the community had suffered from trichloroethylene vapour intrusion for decades.) The sins of this municipal government are greater and ongoing because it has supported both the polluter and the corrupt MOE from the beginning with only token opposition along the way. The most blatant and obvious municipal corruption was the way the new Woolwich Council after October 2014 participated in the manufactured crisis of Chemtura and the MOE and their boycotting public consultation in order to remove the volunteer citizens appointed to CPAC by the previous council. They also removed and slandered me as a SWAT member. Furthermore, the council of 2006 to 2010 removed me from CPAC with no legitimate excuse other than ever-changing allegations by Chemtura’s special friends on CPAC (namely Ms. Bryant and Ms. McLean). At an informal meeting in the township building, Sandy Shantz was absolutely unable to advise council members that I had ever criticized or undermined any CPAC member during her time as a CPAC member. She wanted to but of course with me present the game would have been up if she had so lied in front of me. One other blatant example of Woolwich Council corruption occurred in 2000 when the majority of councillors voted in favour of taking over UPAC as a committee of council. As representatives did in 2014, Uniroyal Chemical in 1999 had walked away from UPAC because Uniroyal representatives believed UPAC members weren’t being appropriately deferential to them. The price of their return was UPAC losing its independence and the MOE lessening its restrictions demanding full on-site hydraulic containment that had been ordered in the November 4, 1991 MOE Control Order.
Brian Beatty misled UPAC in 1992 when he advised that knowledgeable hydrogeologists believed that DNAPL was likely present in the sub-surface if concentrations of dissolved DNAPL exceeded 10% of the solubility of the chemical. Mr. Beatty then quoted Stan Feenstra; however, he quoted Dr. Feenstra out of context. Later, the Region of Waterloo accused engineering consultants Conestoga Rovers of sampling for DNAPLs in an intentionally unlikely location to find them. UPAC members were advised that 97.5% of all contamination entering the Canagagigue Creek from Uniroyal was doing so in the south-west corner of its property. Therefore, Uniroyal and CRA proposed to hydraulically contain only one quadrant of the entire Uniroyal shallow aquifer, contrary to the 1991 MOE Control Order. Decades of surface water testing in the Creek consisted of filtering out suspended sediments, throwing them away, and then testing the water. Dr. Jackson repeatedly reprimanded CRA and Chemtura from late 2015 until the end of 2016 for that deception. Chemtura advised CPAC in November 2012 that they were going to triple the amount of off-site groundwater pumping and treating to achieve drinking water criteria by 2028. Several years ago they amended the tripling to a doubling of the groundwater pumping rates. Nearly seven years later, they aren’t even close to either promise. In 2013, Chemtura excavated a large part of GP-1 in order to remove dioxins/furans and DDT that allegedly flowed there from the company’s east side pits. A little more than a year later, CPAC learned through my research that the location of GP-1 had been significantly altered over the decades. It is probable that what was removed was only the tip of the toxic iceberg. To date, Chemtura/Lanxess is still avoiding the issue and not telling anyone outside its inner circle of allies what they know. Deceit is and has been the corporation’s bread and butter from the beginning of the Elmira Water Crisis.
MOE deceit is just as reprehensible whether regarding Uniroyal Chemical, Varnicolor Chemical, Nutrite, or other sources of contamination around Elmira. APT members including Ted Oldfield, Richard Clausi, and I took the measure of the MOE’s integrity and credibility back in 1990. Due to my inside source at Varnicolor Chemical, I received ongoing information about the company and its actions, all of which were confirmed. Issues such as a buried tanker in Varnicolor’s yard, a buried septic tank beside it not hooked up to toilets but instead hooked up to a floor drain, and even the presence of buried drums on Varnicolor’s Lot 91 all were denied by the MOE until they were physically unearthed. The MOE went along with the lie from Uniroyal Chemical decision-makers that the company was the sole source of contamination to the Elmira aquifers in the October 1991 Settlement Agreement and in its November 1991 Control Order. MOE officials also went along with the Uniroyal Chemical DNAPL coverup with their December 10, 1993 memo accepting a tiny removal of DNAPL from RPW-5 and TPW-2. Officials went along with the upper aquifer scam to only contain one quarter of the upper aquifer on the 25 Erb Street site. The same is true for all the other corrupt actions of Uniroyal representatives that MOE officials publicly supported as soon as they realized that they couldn’t get any further voluntary compliance from the company. An example is the ongoing acceptance of testing soils for dioxins/furans to a depth of only 15 centimetres or 5.9 inches rather than one to six feet or more. The MOE have not publicly pressured Chemtura or Lanxess to test soils and water in and around the Stroh Drain for persistent organic pollutants. I must conclude that MOE officials realize that their integrity and credibility are once more at stake because if that area is highly contaminated, then it means that contaminated waters were leaving the Uniroyal site over decades while the MOE turned a blind eye. Was it all about allowing dilution, natural attenuation, and the migration of contaminants to reduce contaminant levels over the decades versus actually doing serious and expensive cleanups to remediate the contamination? Those cleanups might have required extensive litigation, which MOE officials have shown they would rather avoid.
An example of municipal deceit was Councillor Pat McLean’s statement at a Woolwich Council meeting in January 2000 when she said “The status quo is not an option.” That was a blatant, damn lie she told her fellow councillors. Some likely realized it while others not so much. The status quo meant leaving UPAC as an independent body subject to its own determination of agenda, terms of reference, and new member acceptance. Most likely the truth in Pat McLean’s statement was that the status quo was not an option for Ms. McLean and Susan Bryant because Uniroyal Chemical representatives had refused to return unless conditions were more favourable to them and that she, Pat McLean, didn’t want other UPAC and council members to know what was being negotiated away. Ms. Mclean and Ms. Bryant deceived both UPAC and some Woolwich councillors about this issue.
Members of the public, UPAC, CPAC, EH-Team, and APT Environment were all betrayed by all the other parties dealing with Elmira’s Water Crisis including Uniroyal/Crompton/Chemtura/Lanxess, the MOE, Woolwich Councils, CRA, and GHD. The public in general and Elmira residents in particular were most betrayed by both Uniroyal Chemical decision-makers and their corporate descendents as well as by Ontario MOE officials. The promise that the Elmira aquifers would be restored to drinking water standards by 2028 was simply a throwaway concept designed to both outlive all the current citizen critics as well as to take immediate pressure for results off Uniroyal and the MOE.
Another huge betrayal occurred with the public consultation process. UPAC was allegedly set up by Woolwich Township and MOE officials to give local citizens the illusion they had an equal voice in the remediation as well as a supervisory role to ensure that the two (guilty) parties continued to work effectively towards resolution of the problem. Turns out this equal role and participation through UPAC was plain horse manure from the very beginning in January 1992. The makeup of UPAC membership was grossly tilted in favour of Uniroyal and its supporters. Not only were there two Woolwich councillors on the committee (Quentin Martin and Grace Sudden), but later a Woolwich councillor was the chair of UPAC for nearly a decade, namely Pat McLean. There were former Uniroyal Chemical employees and current supporters of the company on the committee as well as conservative and pro status quo groups such as the school board, the GRCA, the Chamber of Commerce, etc. As far as it being a citizens’ only committee it was a joke which is why I and EH-Team members left in January 1994. APT should never have agreed to being a part of this farce and if they had said no, as Susan Rupert advised, it would have made a positive difference to both the cleanup and the integrity of the citizens’ group. APT Environment was in the driver’s seat at that time and wielded influence with the public. Sometimes the best position in a negotiation is simply saying “No, we do not have a deal.” This was one of those times based on the makeup of this UPAC committee.
The lack of a health study ordered by the Region and provincial governments was also a betrayal of trust of the local citizenry. Aggressive medical intervention as a result might have been too late for many citizens, such as Esther Thur, but it might have saved others if they and the health authorities had learned earlier exactly how adversely affected Elmira residents had been due to toxic exposures in both the air and drinking water.
At APT environment the loss of serious and hard-hitting members such as Susan Rupert, Richard Clausi, Esther Thur, Henry Regier, and I could have been reduced likely to almost zero. This loss was both APT’s and the publics’. It was caused by inherent flaws and weaknesses inside APT as well as by the support of Uniroyal and the MOE of two informal “leaders” of the citizens by private discussions and negotiations with them. It was almost immediately a recipe for disaster. The inherent flaws and weaknesses within APT were very human weaknesses. Despite the vast majority of the members being honest and forthright they simply did not have the time or energy, with families and careers, to stay on top of the issues, hence it was easier to delegate and trust when greater scrutiny was absolutely necessary.
The MOE never seriously wanted to have to deal with the public on an ongoing basis. Thus, they must have knowingly supported the usurping of authority of APT Environment members knowing that the two APT folks they were dealing with had their own agendas and were not properly taking the issues back to the APT Co-ordinators much less to the APT general membership. The MOE also knowingly betrayed the general public in Ontario by routinely sacrificing the environment to avoid court action with Uniroyal and its corporate successors as well as to save face from time to time.
I expect betrayal from a corporation. I detest betrayal from a government body whose mandate is to protect and assist citizens. Betrayal from private citizens designated to formal committees while they are pretending to be on both the side of the environment and the public is beyond the pale. That both government and industry would aid and abet this betrayal of citizens by other citizens is contemptible. I believe that Uniroyal Chemical and the Ontario MOE did that in order to minimize the support and moral authority of other informed citizens while buttressing the positions of their chosen spokespersons with whom they could make private deals outside the spotlight. These private deals often resulted in results that never saw the light of day nor received the benefit of vigorous debate and amendment by either APT co-ordinators or UPAC/CPAC. It is likely that on some issues these chosen citizens might have some legitimate environmental concerns. That they would maliciously backstab and undermine their colleagues, however, simply to enhance their own status and authority is beneath contempt. That they apparently viewed vigorous disagreement and debate within APT and within UPAC and then CPAC as unhealthy and unhelpful speaks to their self-centred approach to the environmental crisis that engulfed Elmira.
Media and Judicial Issues
As long as no major news media attended Uniroyal/Crompton/Chemtura and Lanxess public meetings did it really matter if I or others “publicly” took CRA and its client to task? While credit is still due to the Elmira Independent for its decades of coverage, without Kitchener-Waterloo or Toronto news media coverage, perhaps all the guilty parties were home free. After 2004, news reporters from the Waterloo Region Record hardly ever attended. Reporters from local CKCO-TV were even less likely to appear. From a provincial, national, and international story in 1989, Elmira issues faded into obscurity. Even from a local standpoint, the pollution issues faded because Elmira residents had a water pipeline from Waterloo providing normally contaminated tap water versus NDMA enhanced Elmira well water. News coverage also faded because the Kitchener-Waterloo media said the news had faded by their regular non-coverage of the public meetings.
To my way of thinking, the entire legal and environmental basis for remediation of contaminated sites has been perverted. Ontario MOE officials have long operated on the basis that cleanup of a neighbour’s property due to another party’s release of contaminants into the natural environment is necessary albeit mere containment of the original contaminated site or source area is acceptable. Then, it’s all about arguing and negotiating with MOE officials as to how much remediating is needed and for how long. Next it’s a case of a consulting company doing the monitoring and testing of soil, ground, and surface water and devising a remediation plan. Lastly, that plan must be sold to the MOE. In all of these remediation discussions and negotiations, MOE officials determine the depth of the financial pockets of the polluting party. That, unfortunately, makes a significant difference in all the decisions made by the MOE. Once a polluting party has clearly indicated its ability and willingness to go to the mat, whether to contest rulings at the Environmental Review Tribunal or the courts, then everything changes. Uniroyal Chemical and its successors are multinational, multibillion dollar enterprises. Its’ legal budgets absolutely dwarf any legal budget for the Ontario MOE and both parties know it. In Elmira’s complicated, slow and delay-riddled options for side issues to be litigated via motions, even relatively straightforward cleanups can be delayed for decades. Courts are the rich party’s best friend. Hence, the MOE seems to routinely compromise the public interest to expediency in a quest to get the most bang for the least legal costs and in what officials deem as a timely fashion. It simply can’t be done well and Big Corporate Polluters have a tremendous advantage, which they exploit unmercifully.
Some Light at the End of the Tunnel
The lesson I learned over my thirty years of involvement principally in Elmira is very simple. One incredibly experienced, honest, and credentialed individual with a backbone as is Dr. Richard Jackson, is worth a thousand Wilf Rulands, Steve Quigleys, David Ashs, Jeff Merrimans, Dwight Estes, Hardy Wongs, George Karlos, Garth Napiers, and Bill Bardswicks put together. Dr. Jackson spanked all the professional bureaucrats, pseudo politicians, consultants, and government and corporate employees and left their credibility and manipulative behaviour in the dust.
In Chapter Twenty, Dr. Jackson showed to those of us who have a long history with the problems at the Uniroyal site, exactly how far its decision-makers including all its corporate successors have strayed from best practices in regards to containing, remediating, and protecting Elmira’s natural environment if they ever did. Dr. Jackson also showed what he alluded to as incompetence. Perhaps that’s what it was. Or, on the other hand, was it benign neglect? Did Uniroyal and successors really care as to how professional their cleanup was or were they more concerned with appearances as well as saving money?
The loss of Dr. Jackson as chair of TAG was huge. It was damaging to the public interest. To date, I do not have evidence of political or corporate direct interference in his resignation. I do know that inexperienced TAG members were not ready to go the wall with Dr. Jackson when he soon realized that MOE and Chemtura intransigence, delay, and resistance would continue. As he advised TAG, CPAC, and the public, the problems were not technical; they were public policy issues and he would not continue as TAG chair.
Dr. Jackson had operated using U.S. and EPA rules and laws for decades. Environmental public policy in Canada, in my opinion, is less subtle in its biases in favour of business and industry. The fact of Canadian industries being in charge of their own cleanup is one of the more obvious and objectionable examples of this bias, somewhat akin to the fox being in charge of the henhouse. It is my interpretation that Dr. Jackson resigned when he understood that remediation facts, science, logic, and honesty came a very distant second to corporate and government sensitivities and concerns. Face saving, money saving, and the status quo trumped serious environmental concerns every time. They also trumped the health of citizens every time.
THE END OF THE BOOK BUT NOT OF THE STORY! IT WILL CONTINUE ONE POST AT A TIME IN MY ELMIRA ADVOCATE BLOG @ www.elmiraadvocate.blogspot.com