Wednesday, February 6, 2019


Yesterday's Waterloo Region Record carried the following story titled "Jet-fuel spill cleanup still ongoing." A tanker truck spilled 50,000 litres of jet-fuel onto highway 401 and into the ditch and nearby Mill Creek. The Grand River Conservation Authority (GRCA) have as yet not received water quality test results from the Ontario Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks (MECP) that were taken at the Shade's Mills Conservation Area, which is fed by Mill Creek. After three weeks time and considering the extent of the emergency and environmental risk, I find that bizarre.

This waterway from Shade's Mills flows flows into the Grand River in downtown Cambridge. Without the test results it is more difficult to determine the extent of the damage to the waterway and life in and around it. Municipal drinking wells at the north end of Cambridge have been closed and as well ice fishing at Shade's Mills remains closed for the season due to the spill. Obviously after the recent major thaw, ice-fishing likely would have been closed anyway. Contaminated soil is still being removed as of a couple of days ago at the site of the spill (401 & Hwy 6 north).

The responsibility rests with the MECP which is a concern. Like many provincial ministries they are better at puffery and public relations than they are at actual cleanups. This failure however ultimately resides with our provincial government and Cabinet which have higher priorities than environmental protection or cleanup. One obvious method is delaying the immediate test results and waiting for later results when likely the concentrations of contaminants are lower. This of course raises the issue that I spoke about three weeks ago and that is whether or not jet-fuel can dissolve into water. If it can't as some on-line sources claim then sampling downstream water seems to be a sham. If jet-fuel doesn't dissolve at all in water then you simply avoid the floating stuff and the sheen on the surface that is part of it and you are home free. If it does dissolve as I originally expected then your downstream testing will pick it up. Those results are going to be interesting.

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