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Councillors question clean-up option at airport

 By Kevin Werner, News Staff

The Ontario Ministry of the Environment is considering mixing concrete with the toxic substance perfluorooctane sulfonic (PFOS), as a way to remediate the contaminated chemical found at the southwest corner of the Hamilton International Airport.

Ministry of the Environment’s Jennifer Hall, a senior regional communications advisor, confirmed using concrete to remediate PFOS is one of a number of options the ministry is reviewing, after receiving a risk assessment study from Tradeport.

“All remediation options continue to be on the table,” stated Hall. “Tradeport and (the city of Hamilton) are preparing their reports to review a number of the options.”

Frank Scremin, president and chief executive officer of the airport, revealed to councillors last week that Tradeport had sent to the MoE its long-awaited risk management report about the PFOS contamination on the property. He said the report is a draft examination of the options on how to clean up the former fire training site.

He said preliminary testing of using concrete mixed with the soil “was successful” in a lab.

“At this point, it is the MoE who will determine the program,” he said.

Hall stated the MoE is projecting to take about three months to complete its review, depending upon how long Tradeport and the city need to complete their additional work.

The ministry conducts its technical review of the options “to ensure the clean up plan is appropriate and will address the PFOS contamination on the airport property.”

But some councillors remained skeptical that using concrete as a remediation option should even be considered.

Stoney Creekcouncillor Brad Clark, who fought against the former Phillip Services from mixing concrete with toxic chemicals before it was dumped into the Taro landfill site, said he questioned if the concrete will neutralize the PFOS.

“It concerns me to have a quasi-landfill at the airport,” said Clark. “I’m not convinced it works.”

Glanbrook councillor Brenda Johnson said the ideal option would be to remove the chemical contained in the soil and truck it to a proper disposal facility, preferably in Sarnia.

“I’m not pleased with what I’m hearing,” she said.

Hall stated the MoE will engage with the public prior to selecting a preferred remediation option. She agreed MoE officials will take part in another public meeting that Johnson has said she wants to hold in the community. A meeting held at Mount Hope last spring attracted all the stakeholders, except for the federal government representative.

“The ministry will consider public input before approving a final remediation plan for the airport property,” stated Hall.

One of the obstacles to cleaning up the chemical has been the federal government, which has not been involved in any public meetings, nor remediation plans. Federal transportation officials have repeatedly stated it is the municipality’s responsibility to clean up the chemicals, even though the contamination occurred when the federal government owned the property.

“We expect Transport Canada to work with the city and Tradeport in cleaning up the contamination as we consider them a responsible party,” stated Hall. “That’s why the (Environment Minister Jim Bradley) has written to them urging them to participate in the process, and join discussions with the ministry, the city and Tradeport.”

Bradley sent the letter to the federal government Nov. 6.

The federal government has also refused to pay for any clean up costs, which could range from $2 million to $3 million, putting the onus on the municipality to foot the bill.

PFOS has been found in firefighting foam, which was used during training sessions at the airport. The chemical was added to the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants in May 2009 due to its persistent, bioaccumulative toxic nature. PFOS accumulates within wildlife and it is not easily expunge. PFOS has been found in some fish and wildlife at the Binbrook Reservoir. The MoE and the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority have been monitoring fish in the reservoir for toxins since 2009.

The federal government transferred the facility to the city ofHamiltonin 1996.

 

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