Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Clean Harbors rejects lawsuit claims

The Clean Harbors hazardous waste facility St. Clair Township operates a landfill and incinerator. CATHY DOBSON/THE OBSERVER/QMI AGENCY ST. CLAIR TOWNSHIP - As the deadline looms for Clean Harbors to clean up millions of litres of odorous leachate at its hazardous waste site, the company denies causing neighbour Jim Stenton any health problems. A statement of defence filed in answer to a $25,000 lawsuit from Stenton states that Clean Harbors Canada “acknowledges that odour issues have arisen at the Corunna facility. “But testing performed by the government would indicate that the odour issues did not present a health issue,” says the statement filed in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice. Stenton, 64, lives within a few kilometres of Clean Harbors’ Telfer Road site. He says that a “putrid” stench from the site woke him numerous times in July 2011 and caused him to leave his home. His claim describes various health impacts including shortness of breath, headaches, watery eyes, nausea and swelling. On two occasions, the claim states, 9-1-1 was called when Stenton experienced high blood pressure, nausea, and a headache. Both parties say they are awaiting a date with a judge for a settlement conference. However, Stenton said Tuesday he wants to go to trial. “Unless they come up with an unconditional full settlement, I’m ready to risk court costs and whatever it takes,” he said. “I’ve been fighting this thing off and on for 40 years and they need to clean up their act.” The Environment Ministry ordered Clean Harbors to remove more than 20 million litres of smelly leachate from its property by Thursday. “The ministry inspected our facility two weeks ago and we received confirmation that we met all the terms and conditions of their orders ahead of the May 31 deadline,” said Phillip Retallick, senior VP of regulatory affairs for Clean Harbors. The company spent more than $1 million to incinerate or remove the leachate. About half was destroyed in the on-site incinerator and some was shipped to an U.S.-based commercial hazardous waste injection well. The rest was captured in two new leachate ponds that have been covered with impervious roofing. “Right now the working face of the landfill, which had the accumulated leachate, is dry,” Retallick said Tuesday. “We believe these changes we’ve made will mitigate if not eliminate odours.” Clean Harbors will be “vigilant” in the future to ensure its hazardous waste doesn’t impact the surrounding community,” Retallick added. “We will not let our guard down.” The storm water management system at the landfill has been improved to ensure processed water and non-processed water doesn’t mix, he said. The intense odours, which neighbours complained about for about six months, were likely caused by a lot of rainfall over the past three years and a buildup of leachate, Retallick said. “We were not able to do as good a job controlling the amount of runoff as we should have.” The MoE’s Kate Jordan confirmed Clean Harbors has complied with the ministry order to reduce and control odour. The order remains in effect and the company is required to continue to report on its incineration schedule, she said. Despite hot temperatures in May there were no odour complaints related to Clean Harbors from neighbours, Jordan added. “It looks like they’ve done everything the ministry ordered,” agreed Lori Vokes, spokesperson for several dozen residents who live near the site. “The neighbours have been telling me there’s been a big improvements in leachate odours there. We’re cautiously optimistic the problem is finally under control,” Vokes said. “When I look back on it, the million dollar question is why did Clean Harbors and the ministry allow these massive amounts of leachate to accumulate. “It’s like watching a toxic time bomb and not doing anything about it, just waiting until it goes off to do something.”

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