Council plans to ‘tell truth’ about pollution

City hall will break its silence tonight on allegations that Kingston has allowed an old municipal dump under Belle Park to leak pollutants into the Cataraqui River. A public presentation by senior staff to city council will “tell the truth – that’s always our policy,” says chief adminstrator Rick Flebig. Councillors imposed a gag order on themselves when it was revealed that environmentalists are taking City Hall to court on pollution charges. The dump is allegedly discharging the equivalent of 20 tanker trucks a day of waste into the river. Janet Fletcher, who initiated the court case, said “a lot of people are watching to see what happens” with her bid to force a cleanup at Belle Park. City officials were served two weeks ago with a notice to appear in court April 15 on a charge under the Fisheries Act. Since announcing her intention to take the city to court, Fletcher is surprised that no ordinary citizens have opposed what she’s doing. She expected at least a few people “would come up to me and say:’What the hell do you think you’re doing? You’re going to cost us money’.”
Instead, she’s been getting calls from people who tell her they’ve been alarmed and suspicious about the waterfront in and around Belle Park for years.
Some claim to have complained to the Ministry of Environment and other government bodies without satisfaction. She’s also “had calls from people who live and work in the area and they’re concerned abouth their health and the health of their families,” although, Fletcher said, “I didn’t bring this out to scare people. “I think one of the good things that might come out of this, is if people relaize they don’t have to sit back and wait for a government that’s not enforcing the regulations.” Fletcher has plenty of experience in environmental disputes.She is a veteran of the Storrington Committee Against Trash, which spent approximately eight years in a succession of battles over containment at the Storrington Landfill site. This time, she has enlisted the help of the Sierra Legal Defense Fund, a non-profit environmental law organization. She dismisses the idea that containment and cleanup of aging dump sites isn’t feasible because of the enormous cost. “That’s a lot of hooey,” Fletcher said. Cash strapped or not, she believes that governments “find the money for the things they want to do and they don’t find it for the things they don’t want to do.”Monthly water samples

The Cataraqui Region Conservation Authority collects monthly water samples at the La Salle Causeway for the environment ministry to analyze. Steve Knechtel, the authority’s watershed management supervisor, said he is not aware of any problems with the water samples. “In order to look at it, you have to look at a number of years of information,” he said. “You can’t really tell what’s going on from one or two samples.” Ministry officials also ask periodically for fish from a commercial catch, according to Richard Fawcett, who farms and fishes commercially off the north shore of Wolfe Island. Over the past three years, Fawcett has noticed people he believes are fisheries officers poking around in the bays on Wolfe Island’s north shore. He believes they’re sampling for contaminants in the water and fish but they have evaded his questions. He’s confident the fish and water are safe. “If there’d have been something wrong, we’d have probably heard.”