Friday, April 17, 2020


It is very bad. It's not just the occasional very high soil or groundwater concentration, it's the sheer volume of numbers of contaminants either above some or all of the soil Guidelines or it's the numbers of contaminants above some or all of the groundwater Guidelines. It's also the sheer number of contaminants present in the soil or groundwater sometimes not even counted because of admitted high Method Detection Limits (MDL). In other words the compounds are likely present but the particular sample has a very high MDL which in fact exceeds the Guideline number. Hence it shows up as non-detect at the very high Method Detection Limit. Credit does go to ALS Labs in Waterloo for highlighting these problematic readings in the 2015 report produced by MMM Group on behalf of the City of Guelph.

Some of the surprising (to me) contaminants include vinyl chloride, benzo(a)pyrene, cobalt, F3 petroleum hydrocarbons, dichloroethylene, F4 petroleum hydrocarbons, chrysene, fluoranthene, and lead. Less surprising is trichloroethylene. It seems to be the standard toxic chemical implicated in cases of vapour intrusion into homes. It's concentrations while sometimes in excess of some or all of the Guidelines, nevertheless are not as ridiculously high as they are or have been at IMICO, just north of the residential neighbourhood of Menzie, Audrey, Lawrence etc. that are bounded by York Rd. to the north and Victoria Rd. to the east with the Eramosa River to the south. These other contaminants in groundwater include metals, polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

To date I have not spent as much time examining the soil concentrations as I have on the groundwater concentrations. Nevertheless a pattern does seem to be appearing. Lead, zinc and cadium seem to be regularly above all the soil standards presented in the report. Also PAHs are a huge problem in the soils along the north side of the Eramosa River (i.e. just south of the previously mentioned neighbourhood which is located towards the east end of what is referred to as Site 4 which starts near Wyndham St. and progresses across to Victoria Rd. Also keep in mind that to date I have only seen soil vapour results for the neighbourhood on the east end of this long stretch along the Eramossa River. Again F3 petroleum hydrocarbons (PHC) are the worst offenders of the four fractions known as F1, F2, F3 and F4. F3 concentrations are regularly in the thousands of parts per million (ppm) in the soil with the occasional astronomical concentration. Guidelines are between 240 and 1700 ppm.

As indicated in the text of the report, almost the entire length described along the Eramosa River contains industrial wastes along with normal municipal wastes (i.e organics). Many of these wastes such as slag can likely be easily traced back to their industrial sources. The ten test pits dug along this route, along with the borehole logs for the monitoring wells, describe the type of soils as well as the normal landfill wastes combined with industrial wastes that are present. The monitoring well borehole logs also describe the concentrations of combustible soil vapours that are in the subsurface and at their varying depths. It is not a pretty picture.

I guess that I'm mostly appalled at the overall state of contamination in, near, and around so many residential homes. All of these technical reports whether merely five years old or nearly thirty years old should have long ago triggered our authorities into action to protect citizens living in the area. I am also appalled by the numbers of different contaminants whether PCBs, PAHs, PHC, metals or VOCs. Far too many Guidelines are exceeded by far too many compounds in far too many media (air, water, soil) and in far too many locations. It is in my opinion a potential crisis that could have and should have been avoided a long time ago. Note I say avoided, not "managed". We as citizens pay full time politicians and government bureaucrats to look out for our interests not theirs.


  1. I noticed Hart/Huntsman/PDI are not mentioned as possible sources nor 490 York Rd. This study came about when a major sewer line was being constructed so instead of faulting this City for not doing anything, a better statement would have been what plans does the City have after the latest April testing is done. The same as Imico or Huron Street cleanups have been done or are being budgeted for further cleanup and I presume the some will apply to this neighborhood after these studies are done. As I mentioned earlier post when you have all the reports which I guarantee you don't have and never will. My MECP colleagues just laugh at this week's postings let alone City staff. Oh be careful on the slander as well without all reports and facts.

    1. So Barry, your "MECP (Min. of Environment) colleagues just laugh at this week's postings let alone City staff". Doesn't that speak volumes about their lack of professionalism let alone incompetence and negligence?

  2. No since investigation and cleanup hasn't been completed or started yet or resources allocated to do it. Give the City some space as well as MECP to determine what needs to be done. Your push in Elmira doesn't move fast because you say so and like I said you don't have all the facts yet in this City's issues. Patience is not one of your virtues and never has been. And the MECP colleague is retired and a close friend as is the City Staff member. They just offered their opinions. Governments will never move fast because you say so especially when you know little about history here or what is being planned and resource allocated.