Charge targets city

By Sue Yanagisawa, Whig-Standard Staff Writer

Old dump site the centre of pollution allegationEnvironmental activitists have brought a charge against the city, claiming its old garbage dump is leakin a “toxic liquid” into the Cataraqui River. The alleged leak is on the east side of Belle Park – near the municipal golf course and a children’s summer camp. The area was the site of the municipal dump before 1974. Janet Fletcher, a member of the Storrington Committee Against Trash (SCAT), swore a complaint against the City of Kingston earlier this week under the Fisheries Act. Fletcher claims that some trout exposed to samples of water taken from the site died within an hour in laboratory tests. “You expect this of an industrial polluter, but you don’t expect it from a municipality,” she said. The city issued a news release yesterday acknowledging that a court summons had been served on officials Wednesday. The release – on city letterhead, but unsigned – says the city “intends to respond to the charge,” but said nothing more specific. City solicitor Norman Jackson will have to attend Provincial Offences Act court on April 15 to represent the municipality at a first appearance on the charge. Fletcher and her husband, Doug Fletcher, and their lawyers from the non-profit Sierra Legal Defence Fund held a news conference in the parking lot at Belle Park yesterday afternoon.

They were joined by Craig Boljkovac, a representative of Great Lakes United, another environmental group. Boljkovac has promised to assist the Fletchers by publicizing the Belle Park problem to Kingston’s southern neighbors. He has “absolutely” no doubt they will react, he said, because “people in Clayton, N.Y., could be affected by benzene from this [former] dump. It’s downstream from this [former] dump.” While the news conference was going on, just down the road, by the river’s edge, a work crew, using a backhoe, was constructing what looked like a dike out of three-meter long metal pylons. Water pouring from the river bank seemed clear, but an arc of yellow ice stretched out several metres from the bank. Crew members refused to say what they were doing. They wouldn’t even say whether they worked for the city. A man who appeared to be in charge of the crew referred all questions to the city’s commissioner of municipal operations, Brain Sheridan. Sheridan, however, deferred to treasurer and chief administrative officer, Rick Fiebig. Fiebig siad he did not know who the men with the backhoe were or what they were doing – even though the news release sent out by the City says: “Upon the issue being raised, the City responded and is undertaking remedial measures at this site.”

What was found

  • Curious about what was pouring out of Belle Park and having discovered that the Sierra Legal Defence Fund – no relation to the Sierra Club – was also interested, Janet Fletcher arranged to get samples of the seepage.
  • Leachate was collected by different volunteeres from exactly the same spot on Dec. 5, Dec. 8, Dec. 14 and Dec. 17, 1996.
  • Fletcher said the samples were handed over to the Sierra Legal Defence Fund lawyer, Doug Chapman, who took them to an accredited lab in Brampton for analysis and testing.
  • The lab performed a 96-hour test for toxicity, using rainbow trout. Fletcher said some of the fish died after only one hour of exposure to some of the samples.
  • Analysis of the contaminated leachate from the site found the presence of benzene and chlorobenzene, both of which have had uses in a variety of manufacturing processes; heavy metals are also used in industry; and ammonia. Benzene has been been implicated as a human carcinogen and chlorobenzene and ammonia can irritate the human respiratory system.
  • A former regional biologist with the Ministry of Environment and Energy visited the site at the request of Fletcher and the environmental lawyers. David Dillenbeck estimated that the discharge from the seep is 311,040 litre a day, which his report compared to “almost 20 average-sized tank trucks discharging into the Cataraqui River.”