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Sludge spill continues controversy

April 24, 2014   ·   0 Comments

Citizens opposed to Lystek’s Organic Materials Recovery Centre (OMRC) located in the Eco Park in Dundalk felt their emotions rise again this month in reaction to alleged “sludge” spills on local and regional roads. Southgate Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Dave Milliner confirms that spills occurred on January 29, and April 14 of 2014 on Eco Park Way, Ida Street, County Road 9, County Road 8, and County Road 14. Milliner stated in an email, “The material was not in any large quantities. The second spill over 30 km of roadway was collected in less than a 5 gallon container in total. The January spill including the snow was collected in less than five, 5 gallon containers is what we were informed.” The CAO also stated in his email that “Lystek dispatched their staff to clean up the small amounts on both occasions.”

In a phone interview, Lystek Director of Business Development Kevin Litwiller disputed the CAO’s information on the second alleged spill. Litwiller acknowledged the January 29th incident, but did not wish to comment on any alleged incidents after January 29th. Following the January 29th incident, Lystec Plant Manager, Michael Dougherty immediately dispatched a clean-up crew and advised the MOE Spilled Action Centre of the incident, as well as the Mayor & Council of Southgate and the Public Advisory Committee. Lystek stated in a press release February 3rd, that the clean-up crew was able to remove approximately 95% of the material from the roadway on the 29th, and on the 31st requested that “the hauler send an additional clean-up crew back to check the roadway and scrape any remaining traces of the material.” Lystek advised the hauler that “the transportation violation was not acceptable” and he was removed from service.

Regarding health risks the material might pose, the Southgate CAO said he was not qualified to respond as the Ministry of Environment (MOE) was the regulatory body. When asked who the “watchdog” for Southgate was regarding MOE regulatory infractions, his response was, “Lystek, Southgate and the community to report and MOE to enforce.” Lystek’s press release stated that the Class B biosolid material in question is regulated by the Ministry of the Environment (MOE) and is classified as non-toxic and non-hazardous by all of the pertinent regulatory agencies.

Representatives from Southgate Public Interest Research Group (SPRIG) say they are “still hoping to confirm what regulations are in place, how they are upheld and by whom. We are also unclear on what emergency measures and procedures Southgate has to address these situations or how these relate specifically to Lystek and future waste developers.”

Citizen concern that there may be health and environmental threats posed by a waste processing plant in such relative proximity to homes, schools and drinking water is as clear as the “Truth not Trash” signs that line the streets of Dundalk. The Eco Park is literally behind the backyards of Dundalk residents and those in opposition feel that communities downstream of the Eco Park should share their concerns.

Anna-Marie Fosbrooke and her husband James Cooke, who live a quiet life, seven minutes north of Dundalk, are committed members and directors of SPRIG. They feel the placement of the waste treatment facilities in a formerly environmentally protected area, at the headwaters of significant watercourses, near municipal water wells is unacceptable. SPRIG’s legal Appeal of building permits for Lystek’s processing facility were denied by a panel of Superior Court Justices in February of this year.

Anna-Marie Fosbrooke says citizen frustration has increased since Southgate Council banned Question Period at Council meetings, “They have banned the recording of Council meetings and called the police when a resident tried to record proceedings at a public meeting on the topic.”

Unpleasant odours are also on the list of worries for citizens, but Kevin Litwiller says the MOE publicly stated that there are no odours from Lystek. “It seems that nobody can tell residents exactly what they are ingesting with each breath when the odours are strongest,” says Anna-Marie Fosbrooke, who acknowledges that much of the unpleasant smell comes from the Gro-Bark composting plant Eco Park. CAO Milliner says, “Gro-Bark is working with the MOE to address infrequent occurrences of odour complaints in Dundalk. Gro-Bark has installed a weather station that can be looked at online 24/7 to mitigate, better manage the facility and control all off site odour complaints.” Jeff Johnston, who owns a property adjacent to Eco Park, says “most days there are two distinct smells depending on where you are in relation to the wind; one is compost, the other is sewage. I’ve called in odour complaints and if the MOE does come, it is usually several days later. How would they know what smell I’m talking about?” Johnston says he is just an ordinary guy who would rather stay out of it all, “but, when it threatens my family’s health, drinking well, garden and personal enjoyment of private property, I take it personal. Do we really need industry at any cost? Why is the schoolyard, where my child attends, allowed to stink with kids walking around with scarves over their faces? If it is so safe, why do they need to process it?”

In a CBC report written for Earth Day, writer Janet Davidson notes that despite obvious benefits to soil production, biosolids are “essentially human waste…and in our pharmacological times who knows what proportion of that waste is contaminated even after treatment, with unusual chemical compounds or even mood altering drugs. The science that exists today doesn’t suggest that there’s a concern, but we really don’t know a lot about emerging contaminants.”

Melancthon Township opted out of the spreading of biosolids some years ago, Southgate did not. Anna-Marie Fosbrooke says, “Southgate’s Mayor and CAO are quick to point out that the Lystek solution is sustainable and better than current practices, referring to sludge, but we can’t help wondering who is looking out for the residents and what measures are in place to monitor spills.”

By Marni Walsh

Lystek Road Spill

         

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