City knew of problem, ministry official says

by Sue Yanagisawa, Whig-Standard Staff Writer

The Ministry of Environment and Energy was “involved in discussions” with the city about contaminants leaching out of Belle Park as early as 1994, according to the local head of the ministry’s abatement branch. John Bishop says a report from CH2M Hill Engineering, Ltd. of Waterloo in April 1994 revealed the contaminants. Three months after the study’s completion, project engineer Tom Williams wrote to a ministry hydrogeologist in Toronto. On the basis of additional sampling at the site, Williams wrote, “groundwater and landfill leachate containing elevated levels of phenolics and manganese is likely discharging to the Cataraqui River via groundwater flow and surface water discharges.” The ministry didn’t order the city to do anything, however. “We have told them: ‘It’s your site; you have a problem. Deal with it,” Bishop said. “And that’s what they are trying to do.” It wasn’t until almost three years later that the city filed its plan of action with the ministry. Two days after the city learned it was going to be sued for allowing the discharge, Bishop said he received the city’s proposal for the work. Work crews have been on site since the city was served Wednesday with notice taht a citizen, Janet Fletcher, intends to take the city to court over contaminants that are allegedly leaking from the park’s shoreline. The proposal, the Cataraqui Park Development/Management Plan, is not yet complete. Bishop said it proposes a ditch and pond system to collect standing surface water and direct it away from the dump site before it can percolate through and emerge as contaminated leachate. “I understand that they have a fill permit from the [Cataraqui Region] conservationauthority,” Bishop added. The permit is necessary since the patk juts into the Cataraqui River, making it part of the river’s flood plain. The study commissioned by the ministry in 1994 notes that some 20 years earlier “several studies reported that unacceptable levels of pollutants were detected in both sediments and waters in the river adjacent to the landfill site.” Since sharing the 1994 study with the city, Bishop said, “one of the things we discussed at length is the need fro the implementation of a monitoring plan.” On Thursday, a work crew with a backhoe was driving sheet piling into the bank near a swath of yellow ice offshore. Bishop said the city’s short-term plan is to contain the water as it emerges from the bank, pump it into some sort of storage receptacle and then “that they will discharge that into the sanitary sewage system.” For the long-term, he said the city now has plans to improve drainage and re-contour the property to slow runoff on the river side. City Councillor Don Bristol, who represents Cataraqui Ward, where Belle Park is located, refused to talk about it. “If it wasn’t before the courts, I would comment,” he said. Dave Clark, who represents St. Lawrence Ward, just downriver from Belle Park, wasn’t on council until December 1994, eight months after the ministry report was received. The first he recalls hearing about the concerns was last Tuesday at an in camera session before the regular council meering. “The first thing was everybody flew into action to try to fix it. ” Clarke said.