Transport Canada is planning to study the effects of toxic chemical PFOS later this year that has spread from the Hamilton Airport and invaded the surrounding environment and wildlife.
Geoffrey Knapper, the district manager of the Ontario Ministry of Environment, surprised members of the city committee April 11 when he made the admission.
“This is huge for Mount Hope,” said Glanbrook councillor Brenda Johnson, who represents the area. “Transport Canada has finally stepped up to the plate to conduct an off-site risk assessment (of the problem).”
Transport Canada, said Knapper, will examine the PFOS in the soil from the edge of the airport property to the Welland River. The federal ministry is scheduled to issue a request for proposals for the work, and plans are to begin the study by the end of the summer. It is unknown how long it will take.
Transport Canada did receive a request from the Ontario Ministry of Environment in April 2012 and the provincial Environment Minister in November 2012 to participate in a risk assessment study on the effects of PFOS. The department, said Brooke Williams, communications advisor for Transport Canada, confirmed the department will proceed with an “off-site environmental risk assessment.”
Transport Canada has contacted environment ministry officials to discuss the planning of the study. Cost, schedule and scope of the study has not been determined since it is still in the preliminary stages, she said.
Johnson said the federal study is expected to use Ontario environmental regulations rather than federal rules. She said Ontario’s guidelines are stricter.
“This is moving slowly, like a herd of turtles,” said Johnson. “But I’m pleased that Transport Canada has stepped up.”
Since the revelation over three years ago that perflorooctae sulfonate has been leaking from the Hamilton airport and found downstream at Lake Niapenco, Johnson has been critical of the federal government for ignoring the issue.
She has hosted a few public meetings about the PFOS contamination, but federal officials have refused to attend.
There are about 30 airports and military bases across the country owned by the federal government that has PFOS contamination issues.
PFOS has been identified as a dangerous pollutant by global health organizations and the federal government. PFOS accumulates within the fatty tissues of animals and fish. The PFOS at the Hamilton Airport is suspected of coming from the use of firefighter training sessions using foam that date back to the 1980s when the federal government owned the property.
Since the discovery of the toxic chemical, local politicians have lamented the slow pace of action to clean up the area.
The provincial MOE has yet to craft a draft plan to rehabilitate the area. Tradeport and the city did hire a private consulting firm to create a plan, which was then submitted to the MOE in November 2012. The document has yet to be made public, but options include removing the soil. Knapper at the meeting did say the MOE has reviewed the report.