Questions raised over Chemtura's 30-year cleanup of contaminated water
Chemtura has until 2028 to clean up a contaminated pool of groundwater in Elmira, as per an order from the Ministry of the Environment issued in 1998.
The company says it will meet that goal, but a Township of Woolwich advisory committee isn’t so sure that’s possible.
Dan Holt, who chairs the Chemtura Public Advisory Committee, has concerns over the “pump-and-treat” cleanup method being used by the Elmira operation of the international chemical company.
“We’re concerned about the fact that pump-and-treat, while very helpful … cannot clean it all up,” he tells CTV News.
“There are pockets that are in the aquifer where the hydraulics just don’t pull it all out.”
Holt says his biggest concern is that pump-and-treat – in which crews essentially drill wells into the aquifer and draw contaminated water into their pumps, leaving pure water behind – doesn’t capture contaminants in the bedrock surrounding the aquifer.
The contaminants then pass through the bedrock and into the water, meaning water that may have been pure is once again contaminated, according to Holt.
“The way it is now, with the contamination in the soil leaking into the water, you’re going to have to pump-and-treat forever,” he says.
Chemtura disagrees with those claims, and its measurements show reduction of two key pollutants since 1998.
“If there are areas that do need to be addressed, we can move our treatment to those locations,” says Chemtura spokesperson Dwight Este.
The company also says it plans to ramp up its pumping levels as the deadline nears.
Holt also questions whether his committee and Chemtura are on the same page when it comes to defining “cleaned up”.
He tells CTV News he had assumed there were specific written guidelines for what the groundwater should look like at the end of the process, but information recently brought to light suggests that’s not the case.
“We really don’t have a definition in writing of what the cleanup means,” he says.
Este says the company will make sure the water in the aquifer meets drinking water standards.
“We have confidence, and we are working hard and putting that plan in place to meet that 2028 deadline,” he says.
The CPAC has asked for clarification from the Ministry of the Environment, and hopes to receive that in January.