Thursday, January 2, 2014


The east side of Elmira along Union St. used to be called the mini chemical valley. This was a reference to the much larger petrochemical valley in and around Sarnia, Ontario. Every five or ten years there will be a media update on how things are going in that area. Overall there is only one direction and it is a negative one. The air is bad, the groundwater is bad and local residents have a plethora of varying health issues. One of the most recent is in regards to the imbalance in gender of newborn babies.

The companies along Union St. at one time included Uniroyal (Chemtura), Nutrite (Yara), Sulco, Varnicolor Chemical, Borg Textiles. Procast (Linkbelt) was located just a block or two to the west of Union St. All that is left of those would be Sulco and Chemtura. Apart possibly from zoning the question might be why were they all located on the east side of town. The answer has to do with air and water. The prevailing winds here are from west to east hence any smelly industries on the west side of town would share their odours constantly with the rest of town. Secondly companies discharging coloured air emissions would be all too easily seen by the whole town if they did so from the west side. This of course can be mitigated with night time emissions which has been used by both former foundrys further south (Bonnie Cresent) as well as those which harassed the "Duke St. rowdies" in the late 90's, courtesy of Uniroyal (Chemtura).

The other reason for location on Elmira's east side has to do with the presence of Canagagigue Creek. Keep in mind summertime flows used to be extremely low hence the building of the Floradale (Woolwich) Dam in 1974. This provided a steady flow of water helping to dilute Uniroyal's (Chemtura) contaminated groundwater emissions. Also quite obviously the building of the Elmira Sewage Treatment Plant in 1965 was on the east side, also for odours as well as for treated effluent discharge to the creek. I do not know whether Sulco or Nutrite used the creek for toxic discharges although certainly Nutrite's ammonia shallow groundwater contamination must have discharged there. Similarily Varnicolor Chemical had both a sophisticated as well as a blatant dumping operation going on, on their former Lot 91 at the extreme east end of Oriole Parkway. Finally there is Borg Textiles. My suspicion is that they got away with environmental murder without ever getting caught. These suspicions are based upon documentation from the Grand River Conservation Authority back in the 80's identifying them as having knocked out the bacteria in the Sewage Treatment Plant with their toxic discharges. Finally jugs of Hoescht Dyes have been found in an unusual dumping location in Woolwich Township. Last but not least is the inherent nature of the textile and dye industry. Dyes are synthetically manufactured from various coal tar components. I would very much like to hear from former Borg Textile employees in regards to any on-site liquid waste water treatment etc..

And there it is. Small town Elmira was at one time a virtual hub of chemical manufacturing and useage. By the way there were other textile industries besides Borg in town. They have been long gone for a very long time. It is my belief that some of these industries along with leaking gas stations have added to Uniroyal's permanent "enrichment" of our soil and groundwater.

No comments:

Post a Comment