City drops Rennie dump ball – again

The Hamilton Spectator  March 7/2000

There are are times it is easy to despair of the people charged with running Hamilton. Can any municipality give itself a black eye as quickly and efficiently as this one does?Less than four months after Environmental Protection Act charges were filed against the city, which was also told by the environment ministry to clean up its act, that same city-owned pollution source is badly neglected and may again be pouring toxins into Red Hill Creek.

The story is not complicated: An old dump next to Red Hill Creek is capped in 1962. No one knows quite what went into the dump, but by 1989, a consultant recommends removing all waste from the site. That is not done. By 1997, the environment ministry is investigating high PCB and ammonia levels in the creek. BY 1998, the source was identified as the old landfill. Last November, a watchdog group files charges against the city. As well, the ministry orders the city to erect silt fences to contain contaminated soil and said discharge from the site into the creek had to stop.

Now the fences are torn or missing and a murky liquid is again migrating from the dump towards the creek.

What does it take to get the city to take this matter seriously – a jab with a sharp stick? Council should be insisting that the appropriate senior staff take responsibility for monitoring the site – year round – and assigning maintenance and cleanup.

At this particular point in time, when the health of Red Hill Creek is a major issue in whether the north-south expressway is ever built and when the city is facing charges that could bring a fine of up to $2 million, can’t the city at least show due diligence by doing the minimum amount of work ordered by the ministry? The city’s lack of vigilance on the site is appalling. We don’t know whether the charges are taken less seriously because they were laid privately, but there is certainly the appearance of a cavalier disregard for the problem.

Last November, we noted in this space that the city had been caught flat-footed, without any apparent ability to respond quickly to pollution hazards.

Apparently, very little has changed.