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article imageIs soil safe at local 'dump' in Ontario? Special

By KJ Mullins     Dec 20, 2010 in Environment
A company dumping landfill in a small Ontario township is accused of operating without providing logs or testing to show that their fill is within regulations of safe fill.
What is at risk is the ground water if this fill is contaminated. One of four tests conducted by the Township of Scugog came back positive for hydrocarbons. When that test came in the Township of Scugog suspended the permit for Earthwarx's operation at 13471 Lakeridge Road on October 8. That suspension did not stop the company. They have continued to bring in fill from unknown, untested sources to the location seven days a week citing that the land is not being used as a dump but in fact is an aero-drome making it above the by-laws of the township and those of the province, according to a campaign from concerned citizens.
When asked about the work being done at the Lakeridge Road location Earthwarx Vice President Gord Churchill stated, "We do not have a stop work order." Churchill refused to answer any other questions during a phone interview other than to state that they were a "federal airport."
In theory Churchill is partly correct, there is no stop work order at this time but the reason behind that is the permit itself has expired.
Mayor Mercier has received hundreds of emails and letters concerning the issue from a number of concerned citizens. He understands that fill is big business, economically it is an important business for the community. In almost all cases those companies that work with the township do so obeying the by-laws. That has not been the case with Earthwarx from the beginning.
"It was clear that the dumping was more than what was approved for the permit. They were dumping in daylight hours seven days a week. We have had concerns on what was being dumped. Because of those concerns the township had four samples taken from fill on the trucks. Three of those samples came back okay but the fourth did not."
Mercier stated that there have been concerns about the tracking of the source of the fill and that the city tried to work with the company to formalize the processing of those concerns.
"The land that is being used is sensitive. It is zoned for residential and agricultural use. At this time the company is working without a permit and has been charged with dumping without a permit. The company has stated it no longer needs the permit because they are building an aero-drome."
The company has told the mayor that they only have to follow federal by-laws but Transport Canada has told Mercier that city by-laws still needed to be followed for these types of projects.
On December 13 a motion was put in for legal counsel asking for an injunction by the township.
"We have no powers to arrest or seize trucks going into the location," Mercier stated, "This process can take several months."
The situation is disturbing for the Mayor.
"Their intent is to dump soil with unknown soils. Hundreds of truckloads are coming in every day. We have by-laws to protect our town from this type of dumping and we have notified the Ministry of Environment about it."
The town's budget is taking a heavy hit from this fight. They have already paid out over $8,000 for security to get the soil samples, testing and legal fees. Mercier said that the end cost could be more than $50,000.
One of those letters that the mayor received came from Lakeridge Citizens for Clean Water written by Ian McLaurin P.Eng. of Port Perry. McLaurin lives just a few kilometers from the site himself. In a phone interview he said that the mayor has yet to contact him directly and that there has been only local media coverage of an issue that in theory concerns all in southern Ontario, dumping fill in gravel pits that is close to the water tables. In this case, the Lakeridge Road location's water table feeds into three large bodies of water, Lake Ontario, Lake Simcoe and Lake Scogog.
Bottled water is now being used for drinking by many of the residents close to the site according to McLaurin. The residents aren't sure if their well water is contaminated, that kind of testing is simply too expensive to pursue but they would rather be safe than sorry. There have been no reports of illnesses at this time but McLaurin stated those kind of illnesses take time. For the residents the water is not their only concern, in these tough financial times they fear that their property values may decrease because of the issue.
"The company is still dumping their loads. The white winter landscape is marred with piles of black earth."
McLaurin said that the company will be beginning a ground water assessment on January 15 by order of the Ministry of Environment. That may be good news for the future but McLaurin is concerned that this type of situation is taking place throughout Ontario.
"This site is an example of what's going on in Ontario in protected marine areas. The fill is coming from construction sites in Toronto. That soil gets cleaned up and then dumped in gravel pits in Ontario."
Graham Rivers, spokesperson for the Ministry of Environment said that MOE has issued an order that includes logging of soils, random sampling and further soil sampling which the company is complying with. There are more controls of the soils on the site being enforced and water monitoring will be taking place. At this time there have been four soil samples taken. One of those samples has completed testing and the soil was found to be safe. Three of the samples are still being processed.
More about Earthworx, Scugog, Bylaws, Soil, Testing
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