Toxic plume inching towards Georgian Bay
By RAYMOND BOWE Barrie Examiner
Underground cancer-causing agents emanating from an old private dump continue to inch towards Georgian Bay, leading to speculation about possible beach closures.
But environment officials say chemical concentration levels are declining.
The Perkinsfield, Ont., dump, located approximately 100 km north of Toronto, is commonly known as the Pauze landfill, named after the family that ran it. The privately owned, eight-hectare, unlinered dump served north Simcoe County from about 1966 until it closed in 1987.
These days, the property is essentially a grassy mound dotted with evergreen trees, but three decades ago it was receiving industrial waste.
In the 1990s, the Ministry of the Environment (MOE) provided two Perkinsfield-area residents with special filters after their wells showed low levels of the carcinogen trichloroethylene (TCE), a colourless liquid used in heavy-duty metal degreasers.
Drinking small amounts of TCE over long periods can cause liver and kidney damage, cripple immune system functions and impair fetal development during pregnancy.
The dump may have closed 22 years ago, but its legacy remains a silent reminder to its existence — a toxic underground plume is still moving towards the bay.
Sharon Nix, who has lived near the old dump site for nine years, says she has three concerns about the Pauze plume as it approaches Georgian Bay: Its effect on the fishery, real estate values and possible beach closures.
Nix says she has heard rumblings about how the plume could affect the popular beaches.
“Not a lot, but I have heard it,” she said. “There is concern there. Anything I’ve heard is just rumour, though. But no one wants to buy at a beach you can’t swim in.”
Although Nix gets her drinking water from the municipal system in Perkinsfield, she believes the plume could affect residents’ well water in the area, and farther south towards Wasaga Beach, a popular tourist destination.
However, MOE officials don’t anticipate any beach closures this summer.
“The ministry has no reason to believe that the Tiny Beaches will need to be closed next summer due to groundwater impacts from the closed Pauze landfill site,” said John Kaasalainen, the MOE’s district engineer for the Barrie office.
The MOE has been monitoring wells for more than 20 years. The owner of the former landfill is also required to complete groundwater monitoring to assess water quality on the property and in the vicinity, Kaasalainen added.
The ministry’s latest samples from domestic wells located “down-gradient” of the landfill show the plume is about two kilometres away from Georgian Bay, and is “gradually declining,” Kaasalainen said.
Groundwater safety has been a community concern for years. There was a groundswell of opposition this year against controversial proposed landfill Site 41, also located in Tiny Township, because there were fears the groundwater could be contaminated. Simcoe County councillors voted to abandon Site 41 in September in response to the public criticism.