November 10, 2001

Moncton Times and Transcript

Dump papers seized
by Craig Babstock

Moncton’s City Hall received some surprise visitors on Thursday.

Four Environment Canada investigators dropped by the Engineering and Public Works Department – warrants in hand – to confiscate documents related to the closure of the old city dump on the banks of the Petitcodiac River.

Five warrants were executed simultaneously in Moncton and Fredericton, with 13 Environment Canada agents taking part.

“They were executed without incident and went very smoothly,” says David Aggett, the federal department’s manager of enforcement and environmental protection services.

Aggett and his department have been investigating whether there has been a violation of the federal Fisheries Act. If there has been one, they’ll consult the Justice Department to decide if prosecution is necessary.

The section of the Fisheries Act in question states you can’t deposit a deleterious substance into water inhabited by fish. The substance seeping into the Petitcodiac is leachate, which forms when rainwater passes through the landfill the city stopped using in 1992.

The rain becomes contaminated by the dump’s contents, which include industrial waste, petroleum contaminated soil, liquid animal waste, asbestos pipe insulation, medical waste, septic waste and other substances.

The dump was closed in 1992 and the following year the city hired Gemtec, a local engineering consulting firm, to develop a closure plan that was implemented between 1995 and 1999.

Files were also retrieved from Gemtec’s offices in Moncton and Fredericton, as well as Jacques Whitford and Buchanan Environmental, both based in Fredericton. In all, 5,000 documents were confiscated.

“Some we got from other sources and we needed to get the originals and some we’ve never seen before,” says Aggett.

He says it will take some time to determine what they’re dealing with. “We just got back to the office so we don’t even know what we’ve got, but it’s all part of the ongoing investigation,” he says.

“We’ll go through it all and analyze it. I can’t give you a deadline on when things will be over.”

The investigation began some time ago. Petitcodiac Riverkeeper Daniel LeBlanc made claims last fall that the dump’s leaking leachate was polluting the river and recruited the Environmental Bureau of Investigation to look into the matter. The bureau consists of a group of environmentalists who investigate and prosecute polluters. They’ve won previous court cases against the cities of Hamilton and Kingston, Ont.

The bureau tested some samples and found there was a problem. LeBlanc passed their brief on the matter along to Environment Canada last December and made an official complaint, which resulted in the investigation.

The problem area is located where the dump borders on Jonathon Creek, which empties into the river near the Gunningsville Bridge. The leachate is leaking into the creek about 100 feet before it meets the river. Back in 1998, it was discovered that the leachate was staining the ground in that area, so an underground pipe was put in place to carry the leachate directly from the dump to the river. In other areas, the leachate travels through marshland, allowing for it to break down before reaching the river. But at this location, the leachate was being dumped into the water.