Mar 3 2001

Kingston Whig-Standard

City must drop pollution appeal
by Paul Schliesmann

The City of Kingston is locked in a battle over the former garbage dump and how much pollution may or may not be leaching from the site into the Cataraqui River.

The city has already been found guilty and fined $150,000 for allowing pollution to stream from the dump into the Cataraqui.

It has spent $2 million over the last three years on wells that enable the city to divert leachate from the river into a sewage disposal plant.

But the city will appeal the fine and conviction, beginning on Nov. 5, on the grounds that the justice of the peace presiding over the original court hearing didn’t properly consider all the evidence.

City staff are even refuting an October 2000 report from the Environment Ministry, entitled “Juvenile Fish Monitoring Study, Belle Island Landfill,” that says PCBs from the dumpsite “are entering the Lower Cataraqui River and contributing to elevated levels in sediments and biota.”

The city argues that the contaminants are already present in the river and inner harbour.

City environmental engineer Paul MacLatchy told The Whig-Standard: “Where did those historic PCBs come from? Who knows. Maybe from one or more of the landfill, storm sewer outfalls, tannery site, Frontenac Smelting Co., atmospheric fallout, illegal dumping in the inner harbour, other industrial areas between Elliot Avenue and the causeway that drained to the river.”

MacLatchy also makes the point that more PCBs go into the river from rain and melting snow than from the Belle Park dumpsite. However, he offers no hard evidence to support this claim. There is only the probability that rain and snow are greater pollutants, as based on data from other areas.

The toxic stew that is known as the Cataraqui River probably has resulted from years of pollution spewing from industry and over-development. And the city may be right when it points to other sources of contamination.

But that does not mean the testimony of experts from the first court case, as well as the latest report on fish contamination conducted by the Environment Ministry, can be dismissed so easily without studies and findings showing otherwise.

The Belle Park dumpsite is most definitely one of the sources of Cataraqui River pollution that must be cleaned up – along with all those other possible sources that MacLatchy identifies.

City Hall is locked in a battle over the Belle Park landfill. But a battle with whom or what? The opponents appear to be citizens who are concerned about the pollution and want it stopped. They are the independent government scientists who have done tests and the legal system that has conducted a fair and impartial trial.

Spending money to appeal the charges and refute solid scientific sources is counterproductive and a waste of taxpayers’ money.

City Hall must drop its appeal and get on with developing a plan to clean up the serious environmental hotspot that is polluting Kingston’s shoreline.

Belle Island appeal would be a waste of taxpayers’ money.