Thursday, November 14, 2013


Twenty-four years ago this month the south wellfield in Elmira was closed due to NDMA contamination, thousands of times above whatever drinking water standards were available at the time. Approximately two years later a citizens public advisory committee was formed ostensibly to assist and advise in the cleanup. The reality was that the Ministry of Environment's credibility was rightfully and appropriately in the dumpster. APT Environment were seriously and publicly questioning both the M.O.E. and Uniroyal's commitment and credibility. Ted Oldfield, Rich Clausi and myself were absolutely destroying the M.O.E.'s credibility via ongoing Varniclor Chemical revelations. There was talk of a public inquiry into allegations of corruption within the M.O.E. in regards to Varnicolor chemical. What the M.O.E., Uniroyal and most probably the municipal council of the day needed was a distraction.

The distraction was to be UPAC or the Uniroyal Public Advisory Committee. With APTE's public profile at the time it was seen as a force to be reckoned with. By 1994 that "force" was disappearing fast, the result of numerous concessions made to the M.O.E.. The reality was that APTE and the citizens were never given even the slightest authority or power regarding the Elmira cleanup. Indeed this is why the founder and spokesperson for APTE, Susan Rupert, was not in favour of APTE joining UPAC. She saw APTE's voice and influence being diluted by too many Uniroyal friends on the proposed committee. Susan Rupert was outvoted and outmanoeuvered by other APTE luminaries.

There have been occasional bright spots over the years at UPAC/CPAC. CPAC acted strongly and aggressively in regards to air emissions affecting Duke St. residents in the late 90's. CPAC embraced my research and unanimously requested on-site source removal of numerous buried pits and lagoons in July 2003. Strangely (at the time) while Uniroyal/Chemtura were willing to move on air issues and recently discovered DDT and Dioxins downstream; they would not budge on on-site, long known subsurface wastes. In hindsight this was due to their October 7, 1991 "sweetheart" deal with the M.O.E. which indicated that Uniroyal were indemnified from liability for known contamination as of that date. This of course included DNAPLS and other on-site contaminants. As the APTE leadership agreed and received a copy of the "sweetheart" deal they and Uniroyal knew that the July 2003 Request For Action was simply posturing. The rest of the APTE co-ordinaters and membership did not know.

So what is the point? We've recently had another bandaid "cleanup" at GP1 & 2. The "president" of APTE has expressed her dismay at the inadequacy of this cleanup. This was "new" contamination as far as the terms of the October 7, 1991 Settlement Agreement (sweetheart deal) was concerned and that was the only reason anything at all was done. For me the "why bother" question can be answered thusly. The Ontario Ministry of the Environment were negligent and incompetent in their protection of the Elmira community from long known chemical contamination. They made a deal whose primary purpose was not to protect the public nor to clean up the aquifers. It was to cover their own culpability and to kiss and makeup with the polluter, Uniroyal Chemical. Everything since has been mostly windowdressing and stalling. I do not believe the M.O.E. should get away with what they have done and that they should be accountable. I also do not want them to view Elmira as a sucessful coverup and continue to emulate their practices in other contaminated communities across Ontario.

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