Wednesday, April 22, 2020


Much has been written and said lately about the province of Ontario sacrificing our elderly nursing home residents to the ravages of Covid-19. The articles and opinion pieces in the Waterloo Region Record make it clear that this is not a recent phenomenon. Under funding, staff shortages, poor working conditions and lack of personal protective equipment have all been ongoing for decades. Shame on all of us but most especially to private nursing home owners, and the Ontario governments over the decades for their token supervision and inadequate funding.

I am going to suggest that there is yet another group of vulnerable Ontario residents who have also been sacrificed to the all mighty dollar. That would be residents living near polluting industries, landfills, sewage treatment plants etc. More specifically I would suggest that residents living near Uniroyal Chemical and Varnicolor Chemical in Elmira, Canadian General Tower, Ciby-Geigy, Northstar Aerospace in Cambridge and finally those living near the former IMICO in Guelph have been sacrificed one way or the other. One should also include those Walkerton residents who were sacrificed due to cost cutting and therefore enhanced pretend oversight and supervision by the Ontario Ministry of the Environment. These sacrifices include their health from poisoned air, drinking water, vapour intrusion and the natural environment around them. Of course this is only a small fraction of the citizens and their families in Ontario who have been sacrificed for the sake of the all mighty dollar.

I would also suggest that sometimes those citizens being sacrificed on the alter of reduced deficits/fiscal austerity were victimized unintentionally and without malice. Many others have been sacrificed on the alter of right wing ideology. Trickle down economics, fiscal austerity, "open for business", "slashing of red tape" and just plain bias in favour of the wealthy and powerful donors to the Liberal and Conservative parties comes to mind. What right wing party is going to campaign to their base on the benefits of the principle of "polluter pays". None. Yes they will, when pressed, give lip service to that principle. The reality is that polluters routinely walk away from their sins by abandonment of properties, sales to third parties, and /or mickey mouse cleanups with the collaboration of our very own MOE/MECP.

This collaboration includes municipal and regional governments who turn a blind eye to so called cleanups of contaminated properties that literally take decades to centuries to accomplish. Uniroyal Chemical (now Lanxess Canada) in Elmira did the bulk of their on-site toxic waste disposal from 1943 until 1970. For the last decade of that time, local citizens and some individuals in authority were telling governments and their agencies about the destruction of Canagagigue Creek, the air and potentially the groundwater. Half a century later (1970-2020) the site is still a toxic mess. Much has been done but in fact more has been said than was ever done. The Elmira Aquifers are still polluted and the best estimates now for their cleanup are 2050-2060.

DELAY and DILUTION are polluters and governments best friends! The longer you don't spend money on a contaminated site, the less pollution remains on it requiring cleanup. Dr. Gail Krantzberg, McMaster University, advised CPAC (Chemtura Public Advisory Committee) in 2012 that pollution on an industrial site tends to migrate. Some goes directly into the air, some contaminates and travels via groundwater and even contaminated soil produces toxic vapours which travel through the soil pore spaces contaminating other areas. Lastly of course is the most obvious and most abused namely dumping via "spills", leakage from lagoons, and overland travel directly into nearby surface water bodies.

These rivers and streams include the Canagagigue in Elmira, the Grand River in Waterloo, Kitchener, Cambridge and the Eramosa River in Guelph. That said most polluters prefer to at least pretend that they aren't dumping directly into these water bodies. They pretend that the soil between on-site lagoons, waste pits etc. and the nearest creek/river can magically detoxify liquid wastes. They pretend that gosh they didn't realize that contaminated groundwater likely flows directly towards and then discharges into the nearest surface water body.

In Cambridge, trichloroethylene (TCE) flowed underground via groundwater from Borg-Warner and Northstar Aerospace on Bishop St. and eventually discharged into the Grand River. Several hundred homes of course were situated between these polluting companies and the Grand River. The residents of those homes suffered and some continue to suffer health effects because of TCE vapour intrusion into their homes. In Elmira, grossly contaminated groundwater flowed from Uniroyal Chemical directly into the Canagagigue and from Varnicolor Chemical most likely into Landfill Creek first which then discharges into the Canagagigue Creek. Fortunately no homes were situated between the offending companies and the Creek.

Guelph however shares a similar stratigraphy and geographical land useage with Cambridge. There are several hundred homes located between IMICO (and possibly other polluters) and the Eramosa River. There are known toxic soil vapours in this community currently. The groundwater flows under these homes on its journey to discharge at the Eramosa River. This is not rocket science yet all our municipal, regional and provincial authorities have delayed necessary cleanups for three decades while gambling maybe not that local residents won't get sick but that they won't attribute their health issues with their local contaminated site(s). This to my mind may be intentional sacrifice of others for personal gain. Money is usually the motive for these kinds of behaviour. Somebody will be making money on the final redevelopment of the IMICO site (and others?). Meanwhile the general taxpayers in Guelph have been paying taxes for decades towards maintenance and studies of this site while the toxic effects have flowed downgradient towards unsuspecting residents.

Have they been lucky? Have some paid a terrible price already or will their future health and enjoyment of life be devastated? The public need to know these answers and most especially do the local residents near the York Rd. and Victoria Rd. neighbourhoods.

1 comment:

  1. Supermouth ("me again") continues. He's really just too stupid and too far gone. I may have to scratch him even from being able to leave non-public comments.