Sludge lagoon overflows

H2infO – The Water Information Network   March 11/2004

Sludge lagoon overflows

There was a spill at Deloro on March 5, 2004, when highly toxic sludge from the sludge lagoon spilled over the top of the berm. Waste containing very high levels of arsenic and heavy metals from the arsenic treatment plant is stored in the sludge lagoon. The material migrated to the Moira River and out onto the ice, which had not yet melted.

The Ontario Ministry of the Environment (MoE), who own and operate the site, immediately notified the MoE Spill Action Centre. The arsenic treatment plant, itself, is managed by the Ontario Clean Water Agency. The sludge lagoon is emptied every few years and the highly toxic sludge is taken to a hazardous waste site, north of Montreal, designed to deal with such toxic waste.

That evening, Jim Ritter, project officer of the MoE called The Community Press together with members of the Deloro Minesite Public Liaison Committee to let them know about the spill. He said the sludge had been removed from the ice. He also said results of water samples taken after the spill at the sampling station at Highway #7 were not yet available. He notified Dr. Lynn Noseworthy, the Medical Officer of Health for Hastings and Prince Edward Counties, but did not think there was any risk to the public as residents along the Moira River and around Moira and Stoco Lakes receive a notice each year saying it is unsafe to drink water from the river or the lakes.

According to Ritter, the rapid thaw last week combined with maintenance work at the arsenic treatment plant, meant more water than normal was going into the lagoon, and this is thought to have caused the spill.

Leona Dombrowsky, Ontario Minister of the Environment and MPP for Hastings, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington spoke to The Community Press on Tuesday, March 9. “It is a spill and we treat all spills seriously. There were a number of spills on Friday with sewage treatment plants overflowing with storm water. Deloro is managed by the ministry and we have to ensure it is not repeated. I have asked for the matter to be investigated, to be provided with information about why it happened, and with a plan to ensure this does not happen again. It is absolutely appropriate, as we begin the rehabilitation work, action is taken to prevent this from reoccurring.”

John Steele, media spokesman for the MoE, said the Spill Action Centre issued an order and the Belleville office of MoE is taking action to ensure the spill is cleaned up, and there is a report stating how the spill occurred and action taken to ensure it does not happen again. He also said the MoE in Belleville will also decide if a charge will be laid or not.

David Pascoe, Manager of Emergencies and Enforcement with Environment Canada told The Community Press on Tuesday, March 9, normally the Spill Action Centre notifies his group within 24 hours if there has been a potential violation of Section 36 (3) of the federal Fisheries Act. He was unaware of the spill and will investigate to see if there is any risk to fish in the Moira River.