Feb 28 2001

Kingston Whig-Standard

Environmentalist says meeting about dump `not open, honest’
by Jennifer Pritchett

The City of Kingston is watering down the environmental effects the leaking Belle Park dump is having on Cataraqui River to deflect public pressure to clean up the site. So says Janet Fletcher, the woman who initiated charges against the city for the contamination under the Fisheries Act in 1997. The municipality was convicted of those charges, as well as others later laid by the Ministry of the Environment.

Fletcher made the comment following Monday night’s City Hall meeting – organized by the Kingston Environmental Advisory Forum – which about 80 people attended to learn more about the contamination at Belle Park. “I thought it was a total waste of time,” Fletcher said. “I think they’re trying to fool the public into thinking that the landfill site isn’t having the impact that it actually is.

“I don’t think they were being open and honest.”

Her concerns are based on presentations made at the meeting that she said glossed over the amounts of serious pollutants present at the site and the effects of these materials, which include PCBs. “This was a whitewash of a very serious level of contamination,” Fletcher said.

The city, which is appealing the Fisheries Act convictions and fines amounting to $150,000 for polluting the river, has consistently blamed contaminants in the sediment on nearby properties. A news release from the city said that the public meeting would “explore” information about the type of material deposited at Belle Park between 1952 and 1973 when the dump closed. These details, however, were never brought forward during the three-hour meeting. In fact, Fletcher added, there wasn’t any new information presented at Monday’s meeting. She was “disappointed that the city used the forum to try and argue their appeal with the public.” “That wasn’t the place to argue the appeal … the place to do that is in court,” she added.

The appeal will be heard in November. Experts called to speak at the meeting included city consultant Steve Rose, who was hired in 1997 to deal with the leaks; Kerry Rowe, Queen’s University vice-principal of research who has expertise in landfill sites; and Ken Reimer, director of the environmental sciences group at Royal Military College, whose students recently conducted an independent study that found significant levels of PCBs in the sediments off Belle Park’s south shore. Councillor Lenore Foster, who chaired the meeting, said city council wasn’t trying to “pull the wool over people’s eyes.” Instead, she said the public was invited to the information session to learn about the contamination at Belle Park.

“I hope people learned things here … I mean, what landfill doesn’t leak,” she said. “It’s just that Belle Island is leaking into a body of water.” The old dump site, which covers an area of about 40 hectares, is now a city park and golf course, constructed in part from tonnes of garbage once dumped at the landfill.

One man who attended the meeting was curious about whether the golf course was going to open in April.

Paul MacLatchy, manager of the environmental division of city planning and development services, assured him the greens would definitely open as scheduled. “There’s no plans to close the golf course, [unless] the city was forced to cap the site,” he said, “but we have no plans to do that.”

Experts estimate it would cost about $13 million to cap the site with a clay cover designed to minimize leachate. MacLatchy outlined how the municipality has spent about $2 million over the last three years on 16 wells that target different point sources for the leakage. The wells pump leachate away from the river to the city’s sewage disposal plant. The City of Kingston currently sends the municipality’s garbage to the former Pittsburgh Township landfill site, as well as to Napanee and Ottawa dumps.