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MoE trying to determine if waste dumped in quarry was contaminated

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In Council Watch
Jan 2nd, 2015
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By Roberta Bell, Orillia Packet & Times

The Ministry of the Environment is keeping an eye on Ramara Township after staff authorized potentially contaminated waste to be dumped at a decommissioned municipal quarry.

After the drainage catch basins under the trucks in the bays at Ramara works yards 1 and 3 were emptied Dec. 19, a township foreman told the vacuum-truck company that sucked up the black sludge to dispose of it at the fill-storage facility at the old limestone quarry on Sideroad D-E, said Ramara Fire Chief Dave McCarthy.

A neighbour to the quarry who saw the waste coming out of the vacuum truck reported it to the township and the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change, McCarthy said.

“When (township staff) got called by the neighbour, they called the Spills Action Centre to let them know what it was,” McCarthy said. “That’s when they were told, ‘No, you can’t dump that stuff there.’”

Township staff spent Dec. 20 cleaning the waste, McCarthy said. About 30 cubic metres of it is being held in a tarp-lined hole surrounded by sand berms until the results of contaminant tests come back.

Officials from Ministry of the Environment visited the quarry Dec. 23, said spokesperson Kate Jordan.

“While our visual inspection didn’t identify any surface or groundwater impacts, we are waiting for the samples that the township’s consultant took,” Jordan said.

Charges, if warranted, would be laid under the Environmental Protection Act — which stipulates how to handle waste and that its disposal cannot cause adverse impacts to sites outside of where it is dumped — or the Ontario Water Resources Act, Jordan said.

“Once we have that information, we will make decisions on next steps,” she said. “But at this point, it has not been referred to further investigation that could result in charges.”

After a site inspection, ministry officials told the township not only to keep the waste contained in the tarp-lined hole, but to get a policy in place and retrain staff on waste-disposal procedures, Jordan said.

The township has been told to notify the ministry, which has requested a formal meeting to further discuss the incident, once it does that, Jordan said.

“Then, we’ll review the actions to make sure they were appropriate,” she said.

Ramara has never had formal process for emptying catch basins from its works yards.

While Mayor Basil Clarke can appreciate people make mistakes and the decision to dump the waste at the quarry was an oversight, it won’t happen again, he said, noting the roads superintendent is working on a catch-basin disposal policy.

In the future, as soon as the catch basins are cleaned, the waste will be tested for contaminants, Clarke said.

“If it’s clean fill, then it can go wherever we need it,” he said. “If it isn’t, then it’s got to be dealt with properly.”

Clarke said the drainage catch basins at works yards 1 and 3 hadn’t been cleaned in more than eight years, and he doesn’t know what happened to the waste in the basins the last time they were emptied.

The basins were mostly filled with gravel, but anything that runs off the trucks in the bays passes through them.

“There are opportunities, obviously, for lubricants off the chassis to be in those catch basins,” McCarthy said. “Plus, when they’re washing the trucks, all the soap goes in, too.”

Because the township’s vehicles are in good condition, Clarke doesn’t expect highly concentrated contaminants to show up in the waste when the test results come back.

“We keep a fairly new fleet here. It’s not like we have old junk vehicles that are leaking oil or antifreeze,” he said.

McCarthy expected the soil-test results by Dec. 29, but they haven’t come back yet.

“We’re just waiting,” he said. “If they come back negative, we’ll have to have the material disposed of at a site that can handle the type of contaminants that are in it, whether it’s oils, fuels or whatever.”

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