The Toronto Star, March 14, 1997

Dump poisoning river in Kingston, activists claim

by Brian McAndrew, environment reporter

Toxic liquids seeping from an old industrial chemical dump are poisoning a river running through Kingston, a local environmental group charges. More than 300,000 litres of toxic chemical leachate – enough to fill 20 tanker trucks – are leaking every day from the closed dump into the picturesque Cataraqui River, the Storrington Committee Against Trash says. Committee member Janet Fletcher filed private charges under the federal Fisheries Act against the City of Kingston yesterday, accusing the municipality of discharging a harmful substance in the water. Fletcher said she was forced to lay the charges herself after the provincial environment ministry told her staff cutbacks prevent it from running its own investigation. “I’m a wife, a mother and a geography student at Queen’s University. I don’t really have the time to be doing this,” Fletcher, flanked by lawyers from the Sierra Legal Defense Fund, told a news conference.”Premier Mike Harris’ government has dropped the ball on this one,” added Tom Heintznab, a lawyer with the Sierra fund, a Toronto environmental legal clinic. The province has the ability to quash any privately laid charge before it reaches trial. “A ministry enforcement branch official in the Kingston office was “axed the day before we had an appointment to see him,” Fletcher said. The official was one of six supervisors in regional offices across the province laid off this year and replaced by three managers working from the ministry’s Toronto headquarters. The ministry is losing about one-third of its staff due to cutbacks imposed by the Tories in their efforts to shrink the size of provincial government. An investigation by the ministry into the dump is taking place, said Ingrid Thompson, an aide to Environment Minister Norm Sterling. The Kingston group conducted its own investigation.