January 23/2003

Eric McGuinness

Dump chemicals diverted from creek
by Hamilton Spectator

Chemicals seeping toward Red Hill Creek from the old Rennie Street landfill are now being intercepted and pumped into storage tanks.

That fulfils a pledge made in provincial offences court two years ago when Hamilton pleaded guilty to letting the Rennie dump pollute the creek with fish-killing ammonia and pesticides.

The new leachate control system went into operation last week. It is part of a $23.5-million project to protect the creek from waste in two closed sites, Rennie and the adjacent Brampton Street landfill.

Despite the plea that avoided a trial, the city was fined a record $450,000 and paid a victims’ penalty of $30,000 for violating the provincial Environmental Protection Act and the federal Fisheries Act. It also promised to fix the problem.

The remediation project that involves shifting the creek away from the dumps and collecting contaminated rainwater leaching through the buried waste is now half finished. The Rennie portion is done, and the Brampton side is due to be completed this spring.

East Hamilton environmentalist Lynda Lukasik, who launched the prosecution herself with help from the Toronto-based Environmental Bureau of Investigation, is co-chair of a liaison committee of citizens keeping watch on the project.

She said it’s “great to see the leachate-collection system finally starting up and to know we won’t have any of that material getting into the creek.”

However, she added, “We still have the city proposing to rip the Rennie dump open again in a few years to build the Red Hill Creek Expressway.”

Lukasik said consultants are already disrupting the dump by drilling bore holes to sample the garbage in preparation for the $5-million to $8-million job of digging up and removing enough to make way for the road. She and other expressway opponents are still trying to block the road project.

City officials maintain they don’t need Environment Ministry approval to excavate the waste. Liaison committee members have asked for a meeting with ministry and city staff to clarify the situation.

At this stage, contractors digging a new stream bed past the Brampton site have built huge piles of earth east of the creek, piles clearly visible to motorists passing on the Queen Elizabeth Way.

John Mater, the city’s acting director of waste management, said the piles are especially noticeable because many trees were cut down. The trees will be replaced in a major landscaping effort once the earth-moving is done, he said.

The new creek bed is ready, but remains dry while the city waits for approval from the Ministry of Natural Resources to divert the water.

Leachate collected from a temporary system has been trucked away for treatment. Whatever is pumped from the new system is being stored for testing. If it proves safe to do so, it might be put through the Woodward Avenue sewage treatment plant.