MOE probes Hamilton’s failure to stop toxic Rennie St. dump leak

The Hamilton Spectator  March 9/2000
by Rick Hughes

The city’s failure to satisfy a Ministry of Environment (MOE) order to stop toxic material oozing out of the Rennie Street dump will be reviewed by the ministry’s investigation and enforcement branch.Despite ministry insistence that the city fix the new problems discovered at the site, city manager Doug Lychak told regional councillors Tuesday the site is in compliance with the ministry’s November order.

“My understanding is we have complied with the field order and we have not had any feedback from the ministry that we are not in compliance,” he told the Spectator yesterday.

But if his comments led councillors to believe all is well at the closed dump, they would be wrong.

The MOE says it has made it clear to the city that the requirement in the order to stop leaks into the creek is not being met.

“They simply don’t appear to be holding back the leachate,” said Carl Slater, the ministry’s district supervisor.

“We told them we weren’t satisfied with the seeps as they were.” City public works staff said they will ensure repairs are made to the fences that were installed by city-hired crews.

The latest investigation comes after leaks of oily liquid from the closed dump were found by neighbourhood environmentalists to be flowing into Red Hill Creek.

The city is under a ministry field order to stop all leaks while it works out a permanent solution to the problem.

Slater visited the site Tuesday and confirmed that there were a number of leaks and that the steps taken were no longer working.

“It’s apparent that there was not adequate work done or that the work done wasn’t being maintained,” Slater said.

“Our observation was that more work needs to be done. Whether there was an issue of inadequate effort placed, I think that is what our investigations and enforcement branch will have to assess.”

But he said the ministry will be required to do regular inspections at the site to ensure the city is doing what it has been ordered to do.

“It certainly appears that we need to inspect more often than we had originally planned.”

Mayor Bob Morrow said he will not tolerate failures such as this, which put the city under an unwelcome environmental spotlight.

“I want everything complied with and more. That’s my position. I don’t want any mishaps. I don’t want any messes.

“If something doesn’t get done, we’ve got to know why. It’s zero tolerance from me.”

The problems at the long closed dump — now part of a city works yard — came to light last fall.

Local environmentalists working with a private group called the Environmental Bureau of Investigations laid charges against the city for failing to control leachate from the dump and allowing it to flow into the creek.

Its analysis of the leachate showed high levels of PCBs and ammonia.

The city has proposed a $700,000 leachate collection system around the site. But long-term solutions are complicated by the plans to run the Red Hill Creek Expressway alongside the dump site.