The Municipality of Clarington, Ontario, has called for an inquiry into why information on the dumping of paper mill waste and its potential impact on water has not been forthcoming from Ontario’s Ministry of the Environment (MOE).
But a ministry spokesman says information gathered by the MOE has been released in a timely manner.
Still, Clarington’s request is good news for a concerned citizens’ group, which says it just wants answers on whether dumping of the remains from the paper recycling process is affecting water quality in the area of the Oshawa Skeet and Gun Club.
“It’s been very difficult to get any answers, so very difficult to get any attention to this concern,” says Deb Vice, co-chairman of Protect the Ridges, noting she’s “extremely grateful” for Clarington’s support.
“It’s an immense relief personally and to our group that the responsibility for the health of our community has been shared,” says Ms. Vice.
The motion, brought forward by Clarington Councilor Jane Rowe, calls not only for a moratorium on the dumping of the paper sludge, but “demands in the strongest terms a public inquiry into the Ministry of the Environment, specifically the York/Durham Ministry of Environment Offices, and their lack of response to this longstanding water safety issue.”
Answers on the matter are long past due, says Councilor Rowe.
“The Ministry of Environment has been stalling on this for three years; we’ve been through four ministers,” says the councilor, noting she feels it’s the ministry’s job to provide the information.
“They should be answering the questions, they should be reassuring the public,” says Councilor Rowe. “Why, in an era where we had Walkerton, why are we not being well-served by the very same people whose job it is to reassure us we’re safe?”
According to numbers recently released by GlobalTox International Consultants Inc., the company commissioned by the province to do studies on what effect, if any, the product was having on the water system, chemicals found in water samples taken from a freshly dug well near the gun club far exceed provincial legal limits.
However, Ministry spokesman John Steele says it is not believed the berms were responsible for the contamination in groundwater monitoring wells, which are not used to provide drinking water and were drilled only for monitoring purposes. No contamination was found in samples of three drinking water wells sampled within four kilometres of the berms.
“The Ministry stands by its report that there are no concerns about drinking water in the area,” says Mark Rabbior, another ministry spokesman.
The ministry took the samples even though SoundSorb, the paper sludge-sand combination that had been used at the Oshawa Skeet and Gun Club in their berms, is not covered under the Environmental Protection Act. All information from the samples has been appropriately released, says Mr. Steele.
“We did studies nonetheless because of concerns raised by residents. We’ve told what we’ve found so far,” he says, noting information will continue to flow.
“We will continue to liaise with the stakeholders as we move along with the process,” says Mr. Steele.
This article was written by Jennifer Stone with files from Chris Hall and first appeared in The Canadian Statesman. The topic of paper mill sludge disposal at Ontario gun clubs was covered in the June/July edition of Solid Waste & Recycling magazine in an editorial by Editor Guy Crittenden entitled "Paper Sludge & Guns." (See the archive section of this website.)