Old GM Site Off Ontario Street in St. Catharines is a “significant and continuous source” of PCB’s in our shared waters
An Editorial from the Coalition for a Better St. Catharines, a coalition ‘advocating for a better City for all’
Posted July 6th, 2021 on Niagara At Large
Niagara, Ontario – For nearly two years the Coalition for a Better St Catharines has been pushing the city of St Catharines to take leadership in cleaning up the former GM site on Ontario Street.
We have focused on two primary concerns: the unsecured half-demolished buildings that present an ongoing hazard to community members on the site, and the proven concentrations of toxins on the property that present a danger to the environment and citizens.
During that time we have seen a series of misleading statements from the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks (MECP) and the City of St Catharines that minimized the dangers as they chose to adopt a stance of limited intervention on the site.
Under pressure from citizens, the Ministry of the Environment finally conducted testing on the site, and in April of this year released a report that confirmed that PCBs and other toxins were migrating from the GM property into 12 Mile Creek. The outflow was described in the report as “a continued significant source” of PCB’s that were escaping the site at rates approaching 1,000 times the Provincial Water Quality Objectives
PCBs are nasty stuff.
Linked to a multitude of cancers and other human health risks, their importation, manufacture and sale was made illegal in 1977.
In 1985, release of PCBs into the environment was made illegal. While the MECP and the City have made much of the fact that the PCBs entering Twelve Mile Creek from the GM site off Ontario Street are diluted as they move downstream, that is simply a distraction.
PCBs do not disappear; they settle to the mud and accumulate in the tissue of fish and other aquatic life. They turn our waterways into a toxic soup.
The City and the Ministry have adopted a predictable response to the situation, requesting the landowner to submit a plan to stop the contamination. There is no indication if such a plan has been submitted, or how – if at all – the remediation will be monitored, and what consequences the landowner will face if he fails to comply.
We think that is not good enough.
This is an issue of serious human and environmental health, and we think it demands a response with a sense of urgency. Since this landowner has a history of acting in extremely bad faith in the past, defying court orders and repeatedly violating City bylaws, the City and MECP must take all necessary actions to stop the leak and seal the site without delay.
We have taken the step of posting signs warning people not to eat fish caught in Twelve Mile Creek and adjoining Martindale Pond for two reasons: to draw attention to the dangerous levels of PCBs and other toxins escaping the GM site into Twelve Mile Creek, and to draw attention to the fact that this is happening due to a lack of leadership by our elected officials and provincial ministries.
Those of us who have grown up in St Catharines are well aware that eating the fish around here poses potential health risks – a fact confirmed by consumption limits recommended by the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks — but the influx of newcomers to the region means that many of us are not aware of the threat.
It is time for our elected officials to use the powers at their disposal and make things right at the GM site once and for all.
It is also time to stop pretending the problem isn’t real or that it will just go away. It won’t, and it’s up to us to see that officials at all levels of government respond with the urgency, courage and resolve this situation deserves.
About the Coalition for a Better St. Catharines – We are citizens activating for a better City for all. We are non-partisan representing a broad coalition of neighbourhoods. We advocate for a bottom-up citizen-led approach to governance, urban design and development. By allowing citizens to express their values and ideas the community can collectively contribute towards shaping our future and ultimately a better St. Catharines.
For more on the Coalition for a Better St. Catharines, click on – https://www.abetterstcatharines.ca/
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