Durham Region councillors should prevent a steel company from dumping any more contaminated chemicals into the town’s sewer system, says a Whitby residents’ group.
The province’s environment ministry and the regional works department allowed Lasco Steel to release 3,155,097 litres (694,038 gallons) of industrial waste into Whitby’s sewage treatment plant from May to July because the company’s storage pond was full.
The Corridor Area Ratepayers Association in east Whitby has presented a report to Durham’s works committee recommending any further disposal of Lasco’s waste into the sewage stream be stopped because it contained contaminants exceeding ministry and regional guidelines. “That should send up a red flag for anybody,” says Ralph Blank, the group’s vice-president.
A sample of the runoff of water and chemicals from unused car parts, known as leachate, taken before it entered the treatment plant showed hazardous contaminants restricted from the sewage system by the regional bylaw.
Other chemicals such as fluoride and chlorides were between two and three times the allowed amount, says the report. The group received the information from Lasco Steel.
“This is not our job. We should not have to be your watchdogs,” Blank told councillors.
The Lasco site’s dump is 150 metres (500 ft.) from Lake Ontario and is possibly draining into the water table because the berm is 2.1 meters (7 feet) deep, the report says.
“I’m concerned about the long-term effects of this. And I want information from the ministry of the environment on what we can expect from it,” Whitby Councillor Dennis Fox says.
Art Leitch, the region’s director of operations, says the contaminants wouldn’t pose environmental or health hazards if they are dumped into the sewage system for a short period of time.
“I think that Lasco is a responsible citizen in this community. You can’t continue to come down hard on these industries or they’re not going to find a solution,” Oshawa Councillor Jim Potticary says.
Peter Hughes, special projects co-ordinator with the ministry in Peterborough, wasn’t able to attend the works committee meeting as scheduled.
But he has admitted the ministry knew the levels of toxic chemicals exceeded provincial guidelines, but was assured by the region that it posed no environmental or health hazards.
Councillors have decided to invite ministry and Lasco Steel representatives to discuss the problem with ratepayers at a future meeting.
Works commissioner Bill Twelvetrees says no more of the company’s leachate is being discharged into the sewage system because the pond has dried up.
Lasco has not yet applied for connection to the system, but is investigating methods of treating future leachate in compliance with the bylaw, he says.