It is incredible that the governments which claim to represent us can't pull together the will and resources to clean up these toxic sites.
By Matt Jelly
Published April 18, 2011
this article has been updated
Last summer, almost 8 months ago, I wrote about two properties in Hamilton containing toxic waste, one at 249 Hess Street North and one at 350 Wentworth Street North.
The first property contained hundreds of barrels of abandoned electroplating materials, left in a series of crumbling buildings. The second site contained hundreds more barrels left over from a tar operation, as well as a million-dollar marijuana grow-op in the adjacent building.
As a result of the articles I wrote on these properties, multiple orders from the Ministry of the Environment were issued to the properties in hopes that their respective owners would clean them up. Security was initially posted to both sites by the City of Hamilton Public Health Department. Both of these sites were easily accessible when I found them, with no fences or "no trespassing" signs. Just about anyone could walk onto these sites unhindered.
Eight months later, at 249 Hess Street North, the buildings have all been knocked down save for one, which now contains all the material that was found on the site. The debris from the demolished buildings sits in tarped dumpsters on the property.
In March I visited this site, and found part of the fence on the Hess Street Side of the property had been removed, and security was no longer posted to the site, at the order of the Public Health Department.
The materials remain, and the owner, Dave Maden/Baldev Madan refuses to clean the site up. He has ignored the orders issued to him by 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's investigation continues, and it could take up to two years to complete.
Material that used to be housed on a site at 245 Catherine Street North has likely been moved to the Hess Street property by the owner of both sites. Both the Hess Street and Catherine Street sites used to be owned by the City of Hamilton, and were transferred to the current owner.
The City and the MOE knew about the waste on the Catherine Street site as far back as 1999. 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.
Eight months later, at 350 Wentworth Street North, some materials seem to have been moved around, but nothing has been secured. An orange plastic fence along the northern edge of the property is crushed into the ground and entangled in debris.
The property remains fully accessible from two directions - one being the adjacent City of Hamilton Operations Centre at 330 Wentworth Street North.
Property still accessible from two directions
What I didn't see last summer when I visted the property was the giant chemical pit behind the building. That little kiosk you see in the background is the parking structure for the City of Hamilton Operations Centre.
Giant chemical pit behind the building
One time, when I was organizing a Garbage Crawl event, this is where I went to pick up the bags and gloves for litter collection. This facility is home to the City Of Hamilton's Water and Wastewater division, as well as Customer Service and Facility Management.
Ironically enough, in 2003 the City of Hamilton passed By-Law No. 03-125 [PDF link], the The Swimming Pool Enclosure By-Law, which requires owners of swimming pools to enclose their pool with a fence.
The Public Health Department has some sound advice for parents who own swimming pools, that pools should be surrounded on all sides by fences, and have a self-locking gate which cannot be opened by a child. At the same time, on Wentworth Street North, there's a giant chemical pit in the ground with no fence in sight. Maybe the Public Health Department should follow their own helpful tips on this one.
Barrels of toxic waste
When I found these sites, as confusing as it was to me that they could exist in this condition for so long without anyone taking notice, I thought for sure that the City of Hamilton, the Ministry of the Environment and the institutions we trust to ensure our well being as citizens would leap to action and make it right somehow.
Instead, the City of Hamilton seems to have forgotten about the dangers present at this site, and the Ministry of the Environment continues to investigate. Unfortunately in the meantime, residents of this neighbourhood still have to live near this hazardous mess, without any assurances of when or whether the mess will be cleaned up.
In Ontario, we invest less than a third of each penny of our tax dollars in the Ministry of the Environment. Ministry officials can put an order against a property to have it cleaned up, but if the owner doesn't comply with that order, they're charged under the Environmental Protection Act, which does not involve a criminal charge, but rather a fine.
The fine pays for administrative and legal costs, not remediation of the property in question. If the cost of the cleanup is more than the fine, the owners will simply not engage in a cleanup.
In the case of 350 Wentworth Street North, past owners of the property named in the order have appealed their order from the MOE, on grounds that they did not create the mess, that it was left by past owners of the property. The current owner, Harry Tamber, claims that the past owners left the mess on the property and had promised to clean it up.
The order from the MOE named both the current and past owners of the property, requiring them to work together to clean the property up. They have all failed to comply with this order. While they try to lay the blame on one another, the toxic waste remains.
One block away from this site to the north is the Eva Rothwell Centre, formerly Robert Land School. Across the road from the Eva Rothwell Centre is North Central Park, its playground and basketball court located directly beside Wentworth Metal Recycling's giant piles of heavy metals.
Hamiltonians often think about the industrial sector of this city and imagine it as blocks and blocks of purely industrial properties, out of sight and out of mind. The reality is that these are neighbourhoods, with homes, schools and parks, in between industrial giants.
When we think about the social problems that exist in Hamilton, the health problems described in the Hamilton Spectator's Code Red series, is it hard to see that some people grow up at an unnatural disadvantage, based on where they live and the unadvertised contamination in their midst, in the air, land and water?
Waste Oil 100 feet from the City of Hamilton Operations Centre
I find it incredible that eight months later, this site is in nearly the same condition as when I found it. I find it incredible that security has been removed from this site, and there's still no fence to prevent people from entering this site.
I find it incredible that the governments which claim to represent us can't pull together the will and resources to clean up these toxic sites, but obsessed for over a year on a project to build a Stadium, which upon taking office was our Mayor's top priority.
We need leadership. We don't need the same old answers - these owners will resist engaging in a cleanup at all costs. As Hamiltonians and Ontarians, we deserve far better.
Secure fences need to be surrounding this site on all sides. Before we see another Plastimet disaster, the City of Hamilton needs to be serious about preventing access to this site. We have a responsibility as a community to do something about this site before it's too late.
Please contact your representatives, and tell them these toxic sites still need to be cleaned up, one way or another. If our municipal and provincial governments can afford to build a Stadium and a flooding Parkway, they can certainly afford to do whatever it takes to make sure this mess is cleaned up immediately.
|1||Brian McHattie||Brian.McHattie@hamilton.ca||(905) 546-2416|
|2||Jason Farr||Jason.Farr@hamilton.ca||(905) 546-2711|
|3||Bernie Morelli||Bernie.Morelli@hamilton.ca||(905) 546-2702|
|4||Sam Merulla||Sam.Merulla@hamilton.ca||(905) 546-4512|
|5||Chad Collins||Chad.Collins@hamilton.ca||(905) 546-2716|
|6||Tom jackson||Tom.Jackson@hamilton.ca||(905) 546-2707|
|7||Scott Duvall||Scott.Duvall@hamilton.ca||(905) 546-2706|
|8||Terry Whitehead||Terry.Whitehead@hamilton.ca||(905) 546-2712|
|9||Brad Clark||Brad.Clark@hamilton.ca||(905) 546-2703|
|10||Maria Pearson||Maria.Pearson@hamilton.ca||(905) 546-2701|
|11||Brenda Johnson||Brenda.Johnson@hamilton.ca||(905) 546-4513|
|12||Lloyd Ferguson||Lloyd.Ferguson@hamilton.ca||(905) 546-2704|
|13||Russ Powers||Russ.Powers@hamilton.ca||(905) 546-2714|
|14||Robert Pasuta||Robert.Pasuta@hamilton.ca||(905) 546-2705|
|15||Judi Partridge||Judi.Partridge@hamilton.ca||(905) 546-2713|
Minister of the Environment:
Ministry of the Environment - Hamilton Regional Office
Premier Dalton McGuinty: firstname.lastname@example.org
MPP Andrea Horwath, leader of the NDP: email@example.com
MPP Tim Hudak, leader of the Progressive Conservatives: firstname.lastname@example.org
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This article was first published on Matt Jelly's website.
Update: Ward 3 Councillor Bernie Morelli forwarded a response he received from the Ontario Ministry of the Environment to Matt Jelly, who posted it on his blog:
Let me assure you that the ministry is committed to ensuring that owners of contaminated sites in Ontario follow all applicable regulations and guidelines to clean them up. In a joint effort, the MOE has been coordinating with the City of Hamilton on the management of these sites.
On October 15, 2010, officers from the Ministry of the Environment served a Section 18 Control Order to the owner and previous owners of 350 Wentworth Street North, Hamilton. The order requires all parties to clean up the waste materials on site as well as evaluate all possible environmental impacts from the site.
The owners and previous owners of this site submitted a plan on March 9, 2011, to my office for clean-up at the site that would have all surface containers and materials removed from the site for proper disposal. The plan was accepted and I am pleased to report that clean-up of the site is anticipated to be complete within the next month. On the issue of the giant chemical pit reported in Mr Jelly's blog it is in fact a small coal tar spill which the Ministry was aware of. The owners are in the process of cleaning up the spill under my office's supervision. My staff are on site 3-5 days a week during the clean up.
Regarding 249 Hess Street North and 245 Catharine Street North, in a joint effort, the ministry is coordinating with the City of Hamilton on the management of these sites to ensure that the sites remain secure and any potential impacts to the environment are mitigated.
Until the waste at both sites is properly characterized, the ministry is of the opinion that the materials are hazardous and the sites poses both an environmental and public health concern.
The ministry has ordered the owner to secure the sites, characterize the waste at both sites and remove the waste to appropriate waste disposal facilities. Since the owner has not taken any steps to comply with the ministry's order, it has been referred to our Investigations and Enforcement Branch to determine if charges are warranted under Ontario's Environmental Protection Act. We can not comment further on the investigation while it is ongoing. In the meantime, the City of Hamilton has secured these sites and ministry staff visit the sites several times a week.
By nobrainer (registered) | Posted April 18, 2011 at 12:16:23
This is disgusting, heads should roll for letting this go on so long after you went out and did there job for them. Thank you again Matt for going above and beyond to look out for people that don't get alot of respect in this town.
By Yammer (anonymous) | Posted April 18, 2011 at 12:24:33
I'd be very interested to hear the candidates for Hamilton Centre talk about this issue that they will immediately inherit upon (re-)election. It's time for some big reforms in policy. Our laws need more teeth.
By Absolutely disgusting (anonymous) | Posted April 18, 2011 at 12:24:36
Great work Matt, too bad, the system is none functioning and the toxic waste remains.
I would like all of you to remember this: Kimberly Rogers died, under House arrest, while she was 8 months pregnant, because she had accepted OSAP and welfare, before the Harris regime came to power and changed the rules.
I have to wonder what are my fellow citizens think about all this, that a mother and baby can die, yet the worst offenders whose neglience affects the health and well being of so many others, get off scott free.
But of course the poor and defenseless have been criminalized in Main Stream media, however, I cannot say that main stream media does the same for those who pollute our environment and then threaten law suits.
throw them (the polluters) behind bars!
By rednic (registered) | Posted April 18, 2011 at 12:39:09
One can rest assured that the lawyer fees spent so far by all sides ( private ,city, and province ) would have gone a long way to fixing these problems. As long a confrontation and ignorance is the rule of the day , these sites will remain as they are...
By Zozo (registered) | Posted April 18, 2011 at 12:56:37
Here is a crazy idea, instead of pouring money into bureaucratic organizations, that seem too bogged down with baggage to fix these problems, we start investing in engaging citizens to solve these problems. If the big issues like this are not worth the time of our various forms of government, maybe we need to 'take' these problems off their hands.
What would be needed to assess these sites? Who would need to be involved? What actions would be required? Lets make a plan!
Matt, your absolutely right, we need real leadership on these issues, and IMO most of our politicians specialize more in management than leadership. Managers only 'manage' the system. Leaders engage, empower and lead those around them to achieve goals. Maybe we have become too complacent in what we expect of those we empower to run our city, province, country. Perhaps over time it has become easier to abdicate our voice and power to those we put in civic authority, not expecting any real results as log as the status quo is maintained.
The only answer I can see is for our citizenry to become more engaged and begin a shift in a civic behaviour that allows community leaders to solve these problems.
Let city hall make sure buses run on time, and give our citizen leaders what they need to make things happen!
By rednic (registered) | Posted April 18, 2011 at 13:22:36 in reply to Comment 62405
In response to the cost of assessment... I purchased a small (2000 sq ft ) Garage/Loft space in the cannon wentworth area... part of the mortgage required a phase 1 environmental assessment.
Phase 1 assesses the 'chances' of toxic contamination Phase 2 is a more detailed examination of ( including swabs etc) Phase 3 regards what would be required to clean up the site ...
My phase 1 assessment was about 1800 phase 2 If necessary (it wasn't -so stay away matt ;-) ) was estimated at 5000$
I never got a quote on phase 3 as it never ( thankfully) got that far.
Any clean up of these sites would require a phase 3 to be completed ... I would assume the cost would be 2-3 times the cost of phase 2. Also the price would be determined by the size of area / building ...
I've only posted this to give an idea of the costs involved for an assessment , the real cost i assume is in the cleanup and 'certified' disposal of the waste.
Comment edited by rednic on 2011-04-18 14:58:48
By Zozo (registered) | Posted April 18, 2011 at 13:36:11
Any folks out there that know how to start a not-for-profit organization? I can help on the business plan, but my area of business expertise is small for profit business. Any leaders looking to get involved in this, let me know and I will lend you my will and aid!
I suggest going old school on incorporating anything like this. There was a time when a corporation would fulfill its task and then be disbanded. I think that would be ideal as it would eliminate the baggage that can weight down an organization that gets too big...
"The bureaucracy is expanding to meet the needs of the expanding bureaucracy." ;)
By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted April 18, 2011 at 15:20:55
Is it cynical that I'm barely even bothered by this simply because it's so completely expected?
By Zozo (registered) | Posted April 18, 2011 at 15:26:37 in reply to Comment 62413
desensitized to BS, it is completely understandable. The question is whether we want to start caring enough to do something about it.
For now, talking will suffice!
By revbrian11 (registered) | Posted April 18, 2011 at 17:04:14
Mayor Bratina should have a role to lead on this matter. Where is he?
By Zozo (registered) | Posted April 18, 2011 at 17:07:12 in reply to Comment 62417
By Keener (anonymous) | Posted April 18, 2011 at 17:56:08
I appreciate your sense of responsibility and community mindedness, but we're talking about basic community safety and it shouldn't be the responsibility of a not for profit. We have infrastructures for the waste from my sink and my toilet, we have developed monitoring for air and beach water, and exhaust from my car. The industrial waste built up faster than the policy to protect us from it, and now everyone is protecting their bottom lines. Someone needs to feel more responsibility to community safety that the auditor, and then things will start moving :)
By TedN (anonymous) | Posted April 18, 2011 at 23:15:24
Would it be possible for anyone here to opine without somehow mentioning the word "stadium?" If it is, then I would definitely lose a bet to myself. I can just imagine the convos down on James Street...
-"Hey [whoever], how is your fair trade organic dark roast and artisanal kamut loaf?"
-"Oh, it would be great if it wasn't for the stadium."
-"Hey, do you think we're unwittingly participating in what Jane Jacobs called the self destruction of diversity?"
-"Uhh... I support West Harbour."
By TedN (anonymous) | Posted April 19, 2011 at 11:26:02 in reply to Comment 62432
Six people are currently eating artisanal kamut loaves.
By HuggingTree (anonymous) | Posted April 22, 2011 at 11:07:30 in reply to Comment 62456
I love artisanal bread!
By TedN (anonymous) | Posted April 18, 2011 at 23:18:26 in reply to Comment 62432
By z jones (registered) | Posted April 18, 2011 at 23:32:07 in reply to Comment 62433
Translation - I'm going to attack a straw-man and fire off an insult at a whole diffuse group of people and then sit back feeling smug when they call me on it.
By TedN (anonymous) | Posted April 19, 2011 at 00:24:16 in reply to Comment 62434
By TnT (registered) | Posted April 19, 2011 at 08:39:26
Sigh. I am saddened by the above comments by the two trolls. I shouldn't let it get to me, but when people are so ignorant I can't help it. I had to read again just to make sure it wasn't a sick joke about abestos not being toxic. Come on people let's get behind this progressive work.
By TedN (anonymous) | Posted April 19, 2011 at 09:42:26
Why am I ignorant? Or a troll for that matter? I simply think the dogmatic beating of a dead horse (the stadium) is getting old. Why is my opinion invalid? I used humour to point out something that even the most cursory of glances at this site will prove to be true. If you think that a bunch of people downvoting anything they disagree with until it disappears is some glowing celebration of political discourse then you've clearly been cooking too many bots this morning.
Also, the fact that Capital Idea actually knows where the Galley Pump is, and doesn't just ride his fixie (or Protege hatchback with a "coexist" bumper sticker) down to the North End to play bohemian for the afternoon means that his/her opinion is just as worthwhile as anyones here.
By MattJelly (registered) - website | Posted April 19, 2011 at 10:00:48 in reply to Comment 62445
I simply mentioned the Stadium and Parkway as two giant capital projects we seemed to prioritize over the cleanup of these kind of sites. I didn't support the Stadium being built with a majority of the money coming from public coffers, period.
I will say however, your trolling is pretty well written. Nice burns! For real! Gotta give credit where credit is due. Nice to see you again, Stechkin/TedN.
By nobrainer (registered) | Posted April 19, 2011 at 09:56:53 in reply to Comment 62445
Rude troll is rude. Don't feed it anymore.
By TedN (anonymous) | Posted April 19, 2011 at 10:58:17 in reply to Comment 62446
By slodrive (registered) | Posted April 19, 2011 at 10:42:49
Brutal. Although, can't say I'm totally shocked by the inactivity. My representation on council has been made aware of my concerns and has been requested to take action.
Thanks for keeping this top of mind.
By Kiely (registered) | Posted April 19, 2011 at 10:49:15
Matt Jelly needs a superhero outfit!
...To the Jelly Cave!!!
By Kiely (registered) | Posted April 20, 2011 at 19:59:18 in reply to Comment 62457
There's a conch?!?!
We've got to have rules and obey them. After all, we're not savages!
By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted April 19, 2011 at 12:08:25
I live right near a number of the sites listed, and have on occasion been known to frequent a number of unsavoury drinking establishments in the area. Do I get a say?
If so, then would somebody kindly remove the **ing toxic waste from my neighbourhood?
By Capital Idea (anonymous) | Posted April 20, 2011 at 07:46:07 in reply to Comment 62460
Ah good on ya! My two favorite spots in the area The Galley Pump and Cougars are good ole fashioned community bars. How dare you call them unsavory. Enjoy your organic $9 beer at the Anarchist Club and let us real people live in our city.
By TedN (anonymous) | Posted April 19, 2011 at 12:23:32 in reply to Comment 62460
By nobrainer (registered) | Posted April 19, 2011 at 12:30:22 in reply to Comment 62462
Maybe you should stop being so rude. Then maybe people will listen to you.
By TedN (anonymous) | Posted April 19, 2011 at 17:07:05 in reply to Comment 62463
insult spam deleted
By TnT (registered) | Posted April 19, 2011 at 22:43:39
Do you really think that lambasting Matt Jelly, or any of the progressives who have repaired James N over the stadium debate is a constructive use of the forum? Isn't it kind of belittling the issue of toxic waste? Maybe you should use your "cutting wit" over on the Strathcona love post, or the one way street debate. This is much more grave an issue for your insincere comments.
By TedN (anonymous) | Posted April 19, 2011 at 23:48:19 in reply to Comment 62480
I was simply making the point that the inability of RTHers to let the stadium issue go is getting a little tired. This doesn't diminish the importance of toxic waste. And regardless, does what someone has done in the past absolve them from criticism? Is it a better use of this "forum" to have the same people toeing the same line ad nauseam, while contesting opinions are eliminated from view? Frankly, with regards to open discussion, you guys make the Toronto Sun's Letters to the Editor page look like Plato's academy.
Also, disregarding the awkwardness of your last sentence, I'm wondering what you feel is insincere about my comments.
By TedN (anonymous) | Posted April 20, 2011 at 17:55:05 in reply to Comment 62515
insult spam deleted
By TnT (registered) | Posted April 21, 2011 at 00:04:24
I can't believe I am saying this, but bravo Bernie Morelli. As a lameduck final term Alderman he is trying to leave a positive legacy. Also, is there any hope Matt Jelly will launch a campaign in Ward 3 next election. Would anyone be sad to see Jelly follow Morelli. Nice ryme.
By Steve (registered) | Posted May 09, 2011 at 12:05:11 in reply to Comment 62536
Really, props for Morelli because he forwarded an email from the MOE. Is that all it takes?
If so it goes a long way to explaining why he's been the councillor for so long.
By Capital Idea (anonymous) | Posted April 22, 2011 at 11:14:16 in reply to Comment 62536
You have a lot of nerve giving Morelli such faint praise! He has lived in the ward all his life! Yourself, Santucci (The Pearl) and the snobs out west are treating my home with free range gentrification and that aint right. I read your website and it looks like you are trying to subvert housing rules. Good on ya!
By MattM (registered) | Posted April 23, 2011 at 22:53:41 in reply to Comment 62590
The multiple unit crack rooming houses, abandoned buildings and racing traffic will live on as his legacy, I'm sure. Speak about "housing rules", indeed.
By TnT (registered) | Posted April 23, 2011 at 00:58:21 in reply to Comment 62590
What vitriol! Um in what way am I subverting the "housing laws" whatever those might be. Is that a real thing?
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