GROUNDWATER, SURFACE WATER, AND INDOOR AIR ALL IMPACTED BY TCE DISCHARGES TO THE GROUND IN CAMBRIDGE

By  | July 3, 2019 | 0 Comments | Filed under: About Trichloroethylene (TCE)

Trichloroethylene (TCE) stalked its victims in the Bishop St. community of Cambridge for decades. The TCE as well as other solvents including trichloroethane (TCA) were discharged improperly and most likely illegally at two industrial operations (Northstar Aerospace & Rozell) on Bishop St. TCE is a liquid however it does not fully dissolve in groundwater. Rather it is known as a Dense Non Aqueous Phase Liquid (DNAPL). It tends to sink below the water table (i.e. it is dense) until it hits a lower permeability area of either the sand and gravel aquifer or the clay and silt aquitard. It then often pools on the surface of the lower permeability zone where it slowly dissolves into the groundwater over decades and possibly even centuries based upon the volume of the DNAPL chemical and other factors. Nevertheless this slow dissolution of the DNAPL (such as TCE) will elevate groundwater concentrations of TCE above drinking water standards.

In Cambridge the TCE impacted the indoor air via vapour intrusion through basement walls and floors. It also contaminated the local groundwater and although the MOE (MECP) and the Region of Waterloo refused to admit it, strangely both nearby regional drinking wells have been closed down. P7 was closed prior to the public discovery of TCE and P6 several years after. The nearby Grand River was impacted with seeps of TCE entering the river directly along its banks.

TCE has a long and sordid history of causing human illnesses and deaths. This includes the famous Woburn, Massachusetts case that was portrayed in the movie “A Civil Trial” starring John Travolta. Typically, two local businesses (Beatrice Foods, Riley Tannery) disposed of their waste TCE irresponsibly. The Tom’s River case outside New Jersey was another well known case involving TCE. My recollection is that possibly the culprit was Ciba-Geigy, coincidentally who also contaminated groundwater at the north end of Cambridge in the early 1990s.

There has been negligence and coverups both private and governmental at far too many contaminated sites in North America. This includes Elmira (Uniroyal & Varnicolor), Kitchener, and Cambridge. It is decades past time for our authorities, municipal and provincial, to stop protecting polluters and covering up the health risks to nearby residents. Full disclosure, transparency, and accountability need to be practiced not just be platitudes spilling from the mouths of the professional liars we call politicians.

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