Wednesday, August 24, 2016
Last evening at Woolwich Council Lynne Hare of West Montrose spoke regarding the new Application put forth by Preston Sand & Gravel. After doing some site grading they had to stop as they encountered the water table at a significantly higher elevation than they had previously determined. In fact critics have been advising of that possibility for some time in Woolwich Council Chambers and suggesting that indeed the proponents would be coming back requesting their above water table permit be enhanced to a below water table permit. We were advised last evening by Dan Kennally (Woolwich Twp.) that there have been very few such requests in recent years due to opposition from the Region of Waterloo who have belatedly realized the damage to groundwater and the natural environment caused by these gravel pits.
Currently between new development and gravel pits Waterloo Region are losing on average 2,000 acres of farmland per year. This is in one of the finest agricultural areas throughout Ontario. The loss doesn't just affect farmland but the proliferation of gravel pits along the Grand River results in both warmer and dirtier groundwater discharging into the river. This affects all life in the river including fish species as well as endangered species such as the wavy rayed lampmussel.
There will be a huge lake constructed due to the below water table excavation near the Grand River as the ground and river water infiltrates into the excavation. Lynne Hare showed a brief video of the sight that awaits nearby homeowners as a drag line is used to excavate gravel from the bottom of the lake. She also advised that due to storms and erosion of the possibilty of a breech between the newly constructed lake and the river. In that case silt from the lake would enter the river and most likely cause fish kills.
This area is a shockingly bad location for a gravel pit and totally unecessary. Kudos to Lynne Hare and collegues who have been fighting this pit for years.
Tuesday, August 23, 2016
I posted here last Thursday regarding Nestle Waters donating money to the University of Guelph to assist in groundwater studies. My concern (& others) dealt with profit making corporations donating cash to research projects in which they had a huge stake. Exactly what if any are the conditions tied to such research donations?
Yesterday's Waterloo Region Record carried this story titled "Activists oppose permit for water-taking". The Wellington Water Watchers are a Guelph/Wellington County based group of citizens dedicated to "the protection, restoration and conservation of drinking water in Guelph & Wellington County". The provincial permit allowing Nestle to pump water for bottling and sale expired at the end of July yet the Ontario Ministry of Environment allows them to continue pumping from a well in Aberfoyle even in the midst of a severe drought.
This is the reality. The Ontario M.O.E. issue permits literally for pennies allowing corporate interests to extract massive amounts of the public's water for resale at ridiculous prices and for private profit. Mind you this is the same provincial ministry (M.O.E.) who issue permits allowing corporations to pollute our waterways albeit only up to certain limits allegedly. Every once in a blue moon they will prosecute a company for exceeding their pollution limits.
Municipalities, mining companies, golf courses and water bottlers extract 1.4 trillion litres of water per day from Ontario's surface and groundwater supplies. In the case of municipalities it is for human consumption and is at reasonable rates.
Nestle have submitted a renewal application for their Aberfoyle well. Obviously it will be rubberstamped once again by our Ministry of Environment. Such a deal. We pay through the nose for the M.O.E. bureaucracy to give approvals to private companies to extract our public resources for their own profits. Hey this is democracy apparently. In a third world country private companies would have to bribe government bureaucracies to get their permits.
Monday, August 22, 2016
Tomorrow evening at Woolwich Council there will be a Presentation by Dale Martin, Deputy Fire Chief. The title is "Hazard Identification Risk Assessment". Currently his Presentation can be found on-line on the Township's website under Council Meetings. One page of text as well as a couple of pages of photos really caught my eye. The photos include a tanker truck with hazardous contents in the ditch as well a photo of an ongoing fire at Chemtura and finally an aerial photo of Varnicolor Chemical.
The page of text that caught my eye is a listing of Significant Events in Woolwich that involved hazardous materials. Some of these I had not heard of. In 1958 there was an Ammonia leak at the former Nutrite (Read fertilizer). Breslube had an unspecified incident in 1984 which I vaguely recall was probably a fire. Sulco had an Oleum (Sulphuric Acid) spill in 1990 which I definitely do recall. Bridgeland Terminals (BTL) the local (Elmira) trucking company had a Hydrochloric Acid leak which I do not recall. Odd.
In total there are fourteen incidents listed. Varnicolor Chemical is listed as an event in 1992 which was after they were closed but still having leaking barrels being cleaned up and removed. Uniroyal/Chemtura have a total of eight of these fourteen events. Yes that's right eight of the fourteen. They include a Hydrogen explosion (1975), various solvent fires in the late 70s and 80s as well as a potentially life threatening Chlorine leak in 1994. The early 2000s were a bad time for Chemtura with assorted leaks and fires in 2000, 2002, 2004 and 2006. Oddly the 2010 BLE (acetone & diphenylamine) fugitive release into the Elmira atmosphere is not mentioned. In fact there were two of them albeit the second was quite minor just a year or so ago.
All of this begs the question: What has or are Chemtura doing for Woolwich Township or Councils that have insulated them from the ire of Woolwich residents? Above and beyond jobs that is. Are their corporate property taxes particularily significant, or not? Do they donate to some local charities? I believe they do. With a history of fires, explosions, spills, leaks, fugitive air emissions, contaminated groundwater and at one time a totally dead Canagagigue Creek; one has to admire the perseverance of Elmira (particularily) citizens. How long will it last I wonder? What will be the last straw?
Saturday, August 20, 2016
Interesting! I determined the title just prior to checking on Woolwich Township's website to confirm that I'm on the Agenda for this coming Tuesday's Council meeting. There I spotted a Presentation titled "Rick Russell, Agree Inc.- Waterloo Area Ombudsman Services". Well, well, well. Perhaps this explains the Ombudsman's kind words to Woolwich Township regarding one of their more recent public screw ups. Or in the alternative maybe the Ombudsman's Decision that Woolwich didn't break the law (Municipal Act) this time around is accurate, albeit a technicality. Hard to say.
A while back I had heard that Waterloo Region were considering an alternative to the use of the provincial Ombudsman. As this alternative would be a private service paid for directly by either the Region and or member municipalities it would have to offer something superior to the provincial Ombudsman in order for the cities and townships to be willing to pay for what currently is free to them. The only thing that I can think of that would be superior is if the final Decisions reflected a more flexible, sympathetic approach to municipal sensitivities and concerns. Somewhat secondly the provincial Ombudsman prefers complainants to have gone through municipal internal complaints processes prior to bringing their cases to them. Thus for a small fee municipalities can manage to double up or even triple up on the number of phone calls, e-mails and general coorespondence necessary for a citizen to hold them accountable to the provincial Municipal Act. Hence I would certainly expect less honest and ethical municipal councillors to support this initiative and simply once again pass the extra costs along to the taxpayers. What a great game when politicians can further cover their asses and do it at the taxpayers expense.
Friday, August 19, 2016
The Waterloo Region Record carried the following story on August 9/16 titled "A chemical departs from fast-food". The sub-title of the story was "Restaurants are quietly ditching the yoga-mat substance". Yes you heard that right: "the yoga mat substance".
The chemical is called azocarbonamide and among its' other uses is as a dough conditioner. It is used in yoga mats, flip flops, packing insulation and unless I'm wrong I believe I've seen its'name on various lists of Chemtura Canada chemicals here in Elmira. Sounds yummy doesn't it?
While the U.S. Food & Drug Administration approves its' use in foods the European Union has banned it and the World Health Organization has linked it to asthma and other organizations suggest a cancer link.
The fast-food industry have used it for a very long time but due to bad publicity are at last removing it. Similar to water testing there has never been the ability to look at synergistic effects of various chemical compounds simultaneously. Hence while a single compound on its' own may be of minimal health concern once it is combined with other "minor" health problems all bets are off. This has long been the elephant in the room allowing multiple dangerous chemicals in low concentrations into our drinking water with virtually no knowledge as to whether together they constitute a serious health threat.
Thursday, August 18, 2016
Today's Waterloo Region Record carrys the following story titled "U of G to conduct groundwater research". The story focuses on a corporate donation ($460,000) from Nestle Waters Canada. Yes this is the same Nestle long known for chocolate milk and who have been mining groundwater from the Guelph-Aberfoyle area for many years. Concerns including protests and marches have been held in regards to their continued high volume pumping from aquifers even during prolonged droughts. I do believe that the comment by Nestle's natural resources manager when he says water sustainability is the company's No. 1 priority. Why wouldn't it be considering bottled water is their No. 1 money maker.
While perhaps a little less famous than the University of Waterloo's Groundwater Research Institute nevertheless U. of Guelph are well known for their groundwater research. Dr. Beth Parker has been a well published, peer reviewed expert in a number of areas of groundwater study for a considerable length of time. Formerly she worked with world renowned Dr. John Cherry at the University of Waterloo. I have met her once and received from her numerous publications that either she or Dr. Cherry together had published in regards to DNAPLS.
I also am not the least surprised that governments are encouraging universities to seek out and obtain research money from industry and business. What is worrying is the motivation of governments and big business. Far too often their interests entwine and rarely is it in the public interest. Money rarely comes without strings attached. The potential for conflicts of interest are huge. While respecting the individual researchers involved I hope their departments and the universities themselves examine this corporate funding aspect very carefully.
Wednesday, August 17, 2016
Stories abound among local oldtimers regarding the bad taste of Elmira water back in the late 70s and early 80s. Concerns regarding Canagagigue Creek deterioration began as early as the 1950s whereas the first concerns regarding the local tap water didn't start until the 1960s. Uniroyal Chemical knew full well that their unlined on-site lagoons and ponds were leaking into the Municipal Aquifer beneath them hence they temporarily emptied them and then lined them with clay in 1969-70 to reduce the volume of toxic liquids entering the natural environment. International water Supply were looking for alternate and or additional sources of water for Elmira from 1965-1968 and found that the Elmira Aquifers were much thicker at the south end of town. Hence the South Wellfield was first drilled in 1970.
In 1981 both the Ministry of Environment and Uniroyal knew that something drastic had to be done. Thus on-site Municipal Aquifer (MU) pumping wells were installed at the north end (PW1) as well as the south-east corner (PW3). Uniroyal later complained that CEAC (Citizens Environmental Advisory Committee) had prevented them from pumping those wells in time to prevent off-site discharges. Nonsense. As early as 1957 pumping from the North Wellfield in the MU caused the grossly contaminated Canagagigue Creek to recharge the Municipal Aquifer beneath it. This was readily accomplished as the Upper Aquitard (UAT) thins to literally nothing in a few areas on the Uniroyal/Chemtura site including beneath the creek. Besides the leaking lagoons this creek water that recharged the MU was being drawn into the North wellfield wells.
The same year (1984) that the M.O.E. laid their first Control Order on Uniroyal well E5A was drilled in the North Wellfield albeit the farthest well from Uniroyal. Uniroyal by 1985 was desperately closing and emptying their on-site lagoons on the west side as they knew that even with clay lining they were leaking downwards into the aquifers. By 1988 although they still had horrendous contamination buried in RPE 4 & 5 on the east side they had done an awful lot to slam the gate after the contamination had bolted. They also still had free phase LNAPLS and DNAPLS on site although they were they hoped out of sight, out of mind.
The Township, the Region and the Province via the M.O.E. knew all of this. What they needed was a face saving excuse to shut down the wells, blame Uniroyal and pretend that they didn't know how long Elmira residents were drinking tap water with industrial chemicals including NDMA in it. The M.O.E.'s "solution" was to test for NDMA allegedly for the first time. Everybody including Uniroyal jumped on board pretending they'd never heard of it before. That turned out to be false as NDMA had beeen found in the air around Uniroyal a decade earlier and concerns were expressed then.
This coverup was only possible with the cooperation of all the guilty parties from corporate to political. The public were and still are being lied to in order to protect those who agreed to sacrifice public health as long as possible in order to protect private profit as well as political influence.