The Hamilton Spectator December 9/1999
by Rick Hughes
The environment ministry has ordered the City of Hamilton to stop toxic leachate from the Rennie Street dump from going into Red Hill Creek.The ministry slapped a field order on the city after the seepage into the creek was publicized by local environmentalists working with a private environmental investigation group.
City staff has proposed spending up to $600,000 to build a leachate collection system around the closed dump, which is leaking PCBs and ammonia.
David Adames of the city’s communications staff, confirmed the ministry order. Municipal staff and politicians have found money for the collection system in a special reserve fund. The proposal will go to council next week.
The situation has embarrassed the city and forced it to try to explain why it didn’t act sooner on warnings about conditions at the dump. Privately laid charges against the city were filed last month by environmentalist Lynda Lukasik after a group called the Environmental Bureau of Investigations gathered evidence and did its own testing.
John Steele, an environment ministry spokesman, said it wants immediate action to control the seepage as well as a longer term solution.
“Initially what we want is to have those five point sources capped and, of course, we would expect they would give us a more definite plan about what they intend to do.”
Steele said the overall objective is clear. “It means stopping the material from entering the Red Hill Creek, whichever way they deem to be appropriate.”
The city maintains the new leachate collection plan has nothing to do with the charges. However, the charges clearly spooked city staff who refuse to talk about the proposal. And when the plan was presented to politicians earlier this week, there was no written material, as is customary. It was a verbal presentation. So details are scarce and it’s not clear just how far the plan has been developed.
Alderman Dave Wilson, whose ward contains the dump and who was clearly uncomfortable with the legal restraints he’s been advised to follow, is pleased with the action.
“That is a recommendation that is not tied to the charges, I’m told,” he said. “It’s an initiative that has to go ahead because we have problems and they have to be resolved.”
Lukasik said, “It’s good to hear that,” when told about the city plan. “It looks as though our efforts here are already having an impact.”
The order requires the city to take several steps at the dump and the city works yard built over it. They include:
-Installing silt fences to prevent contaminated soil discharges from the site;
-Having hazardous waste on site – basically leachate already collected – removed according to ministry regulations;
-Obtaining a consultant’s services for a detailed site investigation and remedial action plan by the end of this month.
The city may already have much of the information required since the site was investigated by consultants hired to worked on Red Hill Creek Expressway studies. Expressway plans call for part of the waste in the dump to be excavated, which would also mean tearing up the collection system. Adames said only a quarter of the system would have to be removed.
The city had its first day in court yesterday. The case was put over to Jan. 25 when a trial date will be set.