The time has come for Council to do what's right for the Beasley Community: engage in the immediate demolition and cleanup of this longstanding toxic waste site.
By Matt Jelly
Published August 11, 2011
On Monday afternoon, the City of Hamilton Planning Committee received a number of recommendations from staff in regards to the contaminated site at 245 Catherine Street North in Hamilton. Staff was recommending that the site be cleared of all remaining material, including a number of vats containing high-phosphorus rain water, and the commercial structures on the property be demolished. You can read the entire staff report.
I have been closely following the three toxic sites - 245 Catherine Street North, 249 Hess Street North and 350 Wentworth Street North - for the past year, seeking the cleanup of these sites by their owners.
Over the past year, I've found that this process is much slower than it should be. The Ministry of the Environment continues to investigate these three sites, but has given no clear indication as to how long these investigations will take place.
On Monday, staff presented the Planning Committee with a recommendation to intervene in the case of 245 Catherine Street North, as a result of the owner's unwillingness to do the work he has been ordered to do at this site as well as the Hess Street North property. This site contains a number of vats containing high-phosphorus rainwater, contained in a number of crumbling derelict buildings.
This site used to house 200,000-300,000 litres of toxic chemicals. Glyn Wide reported to the committee that it was very likely that these materials were simply moved to the owner's other property at 249 Hess Street North.
I can confirm that this is the case - the material that is housed at 249 Hess Street North corresponds with inventories completed on the 245 Catherine Street site in 1999, and again in 2003.
Staff's recommendation was to use $134,000 from the Brownfields Decommissioning Fund to demolish these structures and remove the vats. Unfortunately, the Planning Committee voted to amend this recommendation to allow this owner another 60 days to complete this work, when we have every indication that he will not do this work, especially not in a way that is responsible.
This owner owes back taxes on these properties, and has continually ignored every order issued to him by MOE and By-Law to date.
Last summer, the Ministry of the Environment found a man on this property, who was under Mr. Maden's employ, siphoning material out of several barrels into our sewers.
How can council consider giving this owner any more time than he has already been given? How can council expect that giving this owner an ultimatum and another deadline won't result in this material being improperly stored at another location or simply dumped into the sewers?
I hope Council will give this item more thought and discussion during this afternoon's meeting. I believe the $134,000 would be a sound investment in the Beasley Community, who have had to live with this nonsense for upwards of 15 years.
While we cannot be sure that this money would be recoverable in the short term by adding it to the tax bill, this would be a priority lien on the property which will eventually be recovered upon sale and redevelopment of this site in the long term.
I have spent the last year fighting to see these sites cleaned up. I have spent my own time, without pay, to make sure that these sites are cleaned up and their owners held accountable.
I urge Council to do the right thing: overturn the amendment to staff's recommendation and engage in this demolition and cleanup immediately. It would be the first time that any level of government has done anything to correct this situation, a situation the City of Hamilton created when they sold these properties off in 2005 and 2006.
I would find it incredibly disappointing if Council votes tomorrow to give this owner another 60 days, based on hollow promises that he will finally do something. The time has come to do what's right for the Beasley Community.
In January 1999, the electroplating company Joyce & Smith Electo-Plating Ltd., filed for bankruptcy upon the death of it's owner. They had been operating at 245 Catherine Street North for 40 years.
Upon the death of the property's owner, the property then went into receivership. The Bank Of Montreal took ownership of the property between March 24th, 1999 until November 12, 2002, when the property was transferred to the City of Hamilton in exchange for $148,000 back taxes owing on the site.
The Ministry of the Environment was aware as far back as 1999 that these materials were present on the site, and aware that the material was highly caustic and improperly labelled and stored.
According to a 1999 inventory of the property at 245 Catherine Street North prepared at the request of the Ministry by HOTZ Environmental, the property contained 200,000-300,000 litres of corrosive chemicals, including; chromic acid, phosphoric acid, cyanide, sulpheric acid, nickel acid, nickel clhoride, zinc clhoride, and an assortment of "Caustic Solution", "Acid Solution" and "Nickel Solution", as well as many drums identified as "oily water."
The preliminary inventory is available here, recently made available through a Freedom of Information request. Hotz estimated that the removal of the more than 200,000 litres of chemicals contained in various sealed and unsealed tanks, barrels, vats and a pit would cost $60,000. The removal was not done.
In 2006, a numbered company, 558154 B.C. limited, bought the Catherine Street site from the City of Hamilton. That numbered company transferred ownership to the current owner, Dave Maden a.k.a. Dave Madden/Baldev Madan for $2. Maden is the President and sole director of the numbered company. Upon transfer, Maden then immediately took out a mortgage for $105 537, and approximately six months later took out a loan from a lender who put a $26,147 lien on the property. The same numbered company bought 249 Hess Street North from the City of Hamilton in October 2005 for $22 245.
For a number of years, a man was living in the house on this property, and was paid $10 a day by Mr. Maden to look after this site. Last summer, Ministry of the Environment officials found this individual siphoning materials from barrels into the sewer. This man no longer lives on this site - new tenants have been living in the house on the site for a number of months.
The other more severe toxic site at 249 Hess Street North, also owned by Maden, contains some of the same chemicals that used to be at the Catherine Street Site.
In 1999, Hotz environmental did an inventory of the Catherine Street building, and the drums of chemicals at the Hess Street site correspond with that inventory. It is suspected that Madan moved these materials without notifying the Ministry of the Environment, and it is still unclear when and how these materials were moved.
When the City owned the Catherine Street site, a cleanup was costed, but not completed. Instead, the City sold these sites to their current owner, who continues to evade responsibility for the materials on-site. Maden was given a $50,000 letter of credit when he purchased the property, as an incentive to clean the property up.
The City did not require Maden to prove he had initiated any cleanup, or require they retain the services of a qualified environmental consulting firm. Instead he appears to have simply moved this material to his other property, leaving behind vats of high-phosphorus rainwater.
Dave Maden/Baldev Madan has long refused to clean the site up. He has ignored the multiple orders issued to him by City By-Law and the Ministry of the Environment, and threatened to sue the Ministry and the City of Hamilton for "bad faith harassment tactics" and "abuse of authority".
The Ministry of the Environment continues to investigate these sites but the investigation could take as long as another year to complete. Mr. Maden is three years behind in paying taxes for these properties, owing $118,000 in taxes on 249 Hess Street North, and several years worth of tax arrears on 245 Catherine.
At the time of publishing this article, taxation staff are unwilling to disclose the amount owing on the property at 245 Catherine North, but it has been confirmed that the property is behind three years in taxes.
City Staff brought forward a report on the property to the Planning Committee on Monday August 8th, recommending that due to the owner's failure to comply with multiple orders to clean this property up, that the City of Hamilton spend an estimated $134,000 to demolish the structures and remove and dispose of vats, charging the work to the owner's tax bill, possibly recoverable through a priority lien on the property.
This would have been the first major step taken by the City to do something about these sites, beyond issuing orders to the properties and waiting for Maden to comply.
That staff recommendation was amended however, as a result of a letter Maden sent to the members of the planning committee, via fax to Glyn Wide, Manager of Enforcement, Parking & By-Law Services. The letter can be viewed here.
Mr. Maden states in the letter that he submitted a request for demolition for the property back in March, which staff confirmed was not true- Maden has made no attempt to cleanup this property. Mr. Maden also asked, in all-caps, "WHAT'S THE URGENCY ... The subject building has been sitting like this over 15 years: a few more weeks is not going to make any difference."
During Monday's meeting, a representative of Mr. Maden showed up at City Hall and took an application form for a demolition request. Glyn Wide, who had spoken to Mr. Maden on Friday August 5th, and 'implored' Mr. Maden to attend Monday's meeting- which he did not.
At the request of Ward 2 Councillor Jason Farr, an amendment was made to the staff recommendation to allow Maden another 60 days to complete a demolition and cleanup of the site.
Councillor Farr's rationale for the 60 day delay was to prevent the City from having to clean up the site at taxpayer's expense, because Maden was now saying he would do the work - as unlikely as that scenario might be, considering past behaviour.
"They're tough in this community, and they can be tough for a couple months more." said Jason Farr, in supporting the 60-day delay. Council is set to ratify this recommendation as amended at tomorrow's council meeting.
Some questions need to be raised about this decision by the Planning Committee. Considering that this owner has been unresponsive to multiple orders by By-Law and the Ministry, and material has gone missing from this site and ended up at another property, as well as siphoned out of barrels and into the sewer by Maden's employee/tenant, why would the Planning committee expect that Mr. Maden a) would actually engage in any sort of action to clean this property up, or b) engage in a cleanup in a responsible fashion?
How do we know Maden will not just remove the vats from Catherine Street North and put them at the Hess Street property? How do we know the material will be disposed of properly by quaified environmental consultants? How do we know Maden will not simply dump this material into our sewers?
I believe Council would be irresponsible to set a deadline for cleanup rather than engaging in the cleanup right away. If Mr. Maden's past behaviour is any indication, this will be a hasty cleanup, and likely result in more problems for the neighbourhood. This cleanup needs direct oversight by the City, and I find it incredibly disappointing that councillors who have repeatedly voted in favour of much more expensive projects and initiatives would not see the sense in doing what is right in this case.
Please send your councillor a message and ask them to remove Councillor Farr's amendment from Staff's recommendation, and to tear down these buildings and remove these vats. The Beasley Community, as 'tough' as they are, do not deserve to live with this derelict contaminated property for another day, week or month.
As Brad Clark said at Monday's meeting, "Tear the damn thing down." For once, that's a statement I can agree with wholeheartedly. Should we list this property on Hamilton's list of properties of historical interest so council would have more enthusiasm for demolishing it?
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