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article imageCity says 'theft' of water monitoring equipment 'act of sabotage' Special

By Stephanie Dearing     Aug 28, 2009 in Environment
Guelph, ON - While declaring a theft of valuable water monitoring equipment from Tributary A of the Hanlon Creek in the controversial Hanlon Creek Business Park development, the City of Guelph vowed to undertake the monitoring work as quickly as possible.
The mystery is why the fortune 500 company, Aecom, did not set foot on the property to complete its water monitoring tasks that it was hired to do until five days after the protesters had left the property, after the City was granted its injunction on August 13th. The company, according to the City of Guelph's General Manager, Peter Cartwright, did not attend to their equipment or monitoring duties until August 19th. The City said that is when Aecom personnel discovered some of their equipment - valued at $2,000.00 - was missing. However, Aecom did not report the alleged theft until yesterday to the City and Police have not yet been involved.
In its notice, the City states, "Aecom was unable to conduct site visits between July 27th and August 14th due to the recent occupation of the Hanlon Creek Business Park site."
Bill Banks from Banks Groundwater Engineering Ltd., the company contracted by the City to monitor ground water on the site, said that his firm did not attempt to proceed with its groundwater monitoring during the occupation because they feared repercussions from doing their work. "It was a risk I wasn't willing to take. I would have had to walk right through the camp to access some of my data loggers, and I didn't know what behaviour I could expect. In this kind of situation, one has to be cautious." Banks was not aware that his company was named on the Court Order that provided them with access to the site. Aecom, Banks said, is the firm providing the actual surface water monitoring services, and it is a shame that the equipment was stolen, he said. "It's not only the hard cost of the equipment, but the data that was recorded and now missing is valuable."
Initially Guelph Police press liaison, Sgt. Doug Pflug was unaware of the allegations levelled by the City, and after looking into the matter said that he had contacted the City and advised them on how to proceed with making a report on the missing equipment.
Environmental Engineer Colin Baker, with the City of Guelph said that contractors were uncomfortable going out to the site while the protesters were occupying the site. "The road was blocked, there was a check-point to go past, and the people in masks made if very uncomfortable," Baker said adding that the City did not want to force contractors to work or ensure peaceful proceedings by asking the police to stand by. Also, because the protesters had also dug a trench across the four lane road bed that Drexler had begun that leads to the creek from McWilliams Road, and the contractors would have been forced to carry their equipment in to do their work.
Baker was not sure why Aecom did not attend to their monitoring equipment prior to August 19th. Attempts to reach Aecom have not yet been successful.
Baker did not know how long it would take to construct the culvert, which does not include installation of the roadway overtop, but he did say that the permit the City has for the work from the Grand River Conservation Authority gives the City until September 30th, which 15 days more than what people had previously thought was the deadline.
The protesters have released the particulars behind the conditional approval granted by Donna Cansfield to the City, permitting the continuation of the construction on the culvert on Tributary A. Besides not being allowed to work past September 15th, the City must ensure that no work is done at night, in the rain or within one-half hour after sunrise or one-half hour before sunset. the time restrictions are in place because the Jefferson Salamander travels at night. When construction is done for the day, the site must be enclosed with a silt fence to prevent the salamander from wandering into the construction zone.
The protesters allege that the roadway and culvert lie within 40 meters of a seasonal pond, the type of pond that the Jefferson Salamander breeds in, and legislation (not yet approved) says that there should be a 300 meter buffer between breeding grounds and any human activity. The protesters say "This decision ignores every good reason there is to abandon this project, and even fails to satisfy both the MNR and Jefferson Salamander experts in it’s ruling. Minister Cansfield has just given the go ahead for a project that never should have happened in the first place and has given the city permission to continue to pour money down the drain."
The installation of the culvert will mean that the creek's natural course will be slightly changed, and a pond that currently exists at this part of the creek will be filled in.
During the hearing for its injunction in front of Justice Gray, the City had attempted to argue that the protesters had caused damage to the construction site, in particular the removal of survey stakes and the destruction of the silt fence. Justice Gray would not allow these accusations to be heard, because, as the City acknowledged, there was no proof that the protesters or other people who had visited the site during the occupation were responsible for the alleged destruction.
By the close of the business day on Friday, the City of Guelph had posted notices about Donna Cansfield's decision, as well as a decision on the part of the City to not pursue punitive damages from the protesters who occupied the park, only damages.
More about Hanlon creek business park, Jefferson salamander, Old growth forest, Guelph
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