Former Moncton landfill kills fish
by Petitcodiac Riverkeeper and EBI
‘Dilution no solution to pollution’
(Moncton – December 12, 2000) – What Moncton-area environmentalists have suspected for years was confirmed this week by the Petitcodiac Riverkeeper and investigators from an environmental group in Ontario, the Environmental Bureau of Investigation (EBI). Sampling conducted over the last six months found that leachate – continuously discharging from the former Moncton landfill, is toxic to fish.
The investigation, initiated by the Petitcodiac Riverkeeper, revealed that leachate samples taken in July and October of this year resulted in 100% mortality in test trout and daphnia, the species used to evaluate water toxicity levels.
The landfill site, located on 35 hectares (87 acres) of land along the Petitcodiac riverfront, began operating shortly after the causeway was built in 1968. Historical records reference the following notable wastes disposed of at the facility: petroleum waste oil, liquid animal waste, asbestos pipe insulation, urea-formaldehyde foam insulation (UFFI), cleaning solution – sodium hydroxide SCA-134, septic waste, sewage sludge and medical wastes. The site was closed in 1992 after 20 years of operation.
Daniel LeBlanc, Executive Director of the Petitcodiac Riverkeeper, says that “the daily quantity of leachate estimated leaving the site is several hundred thousand litres, according to their own figures. This is incredible when you think that an average car fill-up at a gas station is 50 litres.”
The laboratory results, relayed to the City over a week ago but only made public today, show ammonia levels in the leachate exceeding the Canadian Water Quality Guidelines by as much as 15 times. In addition, testing revealed that the discharges contain heavy metals, petroleum hydrocarbons, benzene, toluene, xylene, ethylbenzene, traces of PCBs and the pesticide 4,4-DDT.
EBI investigator and lawyer Mark Mattson has undertaken similar investigations in the past. He indicated, that while the leachate is toxic and should be stopped immediately – an official investigation by Environment Canada is also needed to determine if charges should be laid. “I believe a message needs to be sent by Environment Canada that it will investigate violations under the Fisheries Act and enforce the law when violations are proven.”
Just a few months ago, an investigation by Mattson, another lawyer Doug Chapman and investigators from Ontario`s Ministry of Environment, resulted in the City of Hamilton pleading guilty to an offence under the Fisheries Act for leachate discharges emanating from an old landfill into the Red Hill Creek. The City committed to a $11 million clean-up and was fined $450,000 – the largest such penalty against a municipal polluter in Canada. Mattson was also an investigator and co-counsel in the prosecution against the City of Kingston for leachate discharging from another old landfill. Those charges went to trial where the City was convicted and ordered to stop the discharges and pay a fine of $150,000.
At issue according to Daniel LeBlanc, is whether environmental laws will be enforced in New Brunswick. As recently as several weeks ago, the City of Moncton and the New Brunswick Department of the Environment were quoted as saying that all was fine with the landfill because the toxic leachate from the dump was sufficiently diluted by the Petitcodiac River. “We do not believe that Canada condones dilution as the solution to pollution,” noted LeBlanc. “To assert otherwise will condemn this River to a death by 1000 cuts.”
Mattson indicated that in his experience he is not aware of a river ever being used as a legal mixing zone for diluting toxic landfill leachate and that the Fisheries Act does not condone dilution as a legal defence to toxic discharges.
The Petitcodiac Riverkeeper has already turned its evidence over to Environment Canada.
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Daniel LeBlanc, Petitcodiac Riverkeeper, Tel. (506) 382-0707 www.petitcodiac.org Mark Mattson, Environmental Bureau of Investigation, Tel. (416) 926-1792