June 16, 2010

Article in Oshawa This Week - June 16

City pushing for update on controversial Oshawa landfill
Several reports, test results expected this fall

Oshawa This Week
By Jillian Follert
June 16, 2010

OSHAWA -- The City of Oshawa is working to get updated information on a sealed landfill that is an ongoing concern for local residents -- but it's slow going.

It was two years ago that environmental advocate Sarah Ross spoke to councillors about potential contaminants in the soil and water near a decommissioned landfill at Rossland Road and Harmony Road North.

Residents living near the site have complained about "orange goo" staining the ground nearby and an orange sheen on puddles of water, and last summer several Oshawa families reported their dogs became ill after walking near the landfill.

After Ms. Ross raised the alarm, councillors directed City staff to get more information from the Ministry of the Environment and Central Lake Ontario Conservation Area, but there haven't been any significant updates since.

Suzanne Elston, the City's senior environmental coordinator, said gathering this type of data typically takes awhile.

"When you're dealing with the Ministry of the Environment, the Environmental Commissioner, a private absentee land owner, CLOCA the City of Oshawa, things take time," she said. "But, I feel very confident that we're heading in the right direction."

In 2008, Ms. Ross and Lake Ontario Waterkeeper independently tested water and soil near the landfill and reported high levels of arsenic, aluminum, lead, copper and other contaminants, which could potentially leach into Harmony Creek and Lake Ontario.

They filed an application for investigation with the Province's environmental commissioner and the ministry of the environment agreed to launch an investigation in January 2009.

The ministry subsequently said there was no violation of the Environmental Protection Act, but agreed to test water from the landfill site and Harmony Creek.

MOE spokeswoman Kate Jordan says that work was completed, with no cause for concern.

"All the results have been safe," she said. "They haven't identified any off-site impact."

She also said there haven't been any orders issued to the owner -- Jim Sinclair, a Mississauga developer -- since he was required to do some cleanup work in 2009.

Mr. Sinclair could not be reached for comment.

Lake Ontario Waterkeeper President Mark Mattson said more needs to be done to keep the public informed on the state of landfills like the one in Oshawa.

"While ongoing sampling at the site is essential, the efforts won't ensure environmental protection unless the public is part of the process," he said. "Transparency demands that the ministry make its sampling results public so that council and Oshawa residents have the information they need to make informed decisions about this, and other, closed landfills in their community."

Ms. Elston said the City expects to get much more information after council's summer recess, when several reports will be finished.

The office of the environmental commissioner has said information about the Oshawa landfill will be included in a report coming out this fall, while a UOIT graduate student who has been collecting samples from the site for two years plans to present findings to council's development services committee in the fall as well.

The City has also spent $1,500 to hire consultants to review all existing documents about the landfill and provide an opinion on potential health risks and the extent of environmental remediation required. That report is also due this fall.

The landfill was originally owned by Industrial Disposal Oshawa Limited and operated from 1957 to 1980, when it was sealed.

While it was operational, the 35-acre site accepted about one million tonnes of solid commercial and industrial waste, primarily from General Motors. A 1992 Ontario Municipal Board decision said liquid waste dumped there included paint sludge, anti-freeze, brake fluid, hydraulic oils and isopropyl alcohol.

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