New options being considered for Northstar remediation

By  | June 2, 2017 | 3 Comments | Filed under: About Trichloroethylene (TCE)

NewsJun 02, 2017 06:00by Ray MartinCambridge Times

Coun. Mike Mann chats with MOEE district manager Amy Shaw during Wednesday’s Northstar meeting. – Ray Martin, Times staff

Rome wasn’t built in a day, nor has the potential fix for the trichloroethylene (TCE) contamination flowing from the former Northstar plant at 695 Bishop St.

It’s been 13 years since groundwater testing determined chemicals from the plant had, over a series of decades, contaminated the soil beneath 208 homes in the south Preston neighbourhood. TCE had been used at the plant, which once produced parts for helicopters, to clean and degrease metal parts. It has been classed as a carcinogen by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and is regulated under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.

In July 2005, a year after the contamination was discovered, the Ministry of the Environmental and Climate Change (MOECC) determined the levels of contamination exceeded acceptable levels and work then began to figure out how best to deal with the problem.

Putting the situation into context, Amy Shaw, district manager with the MOECC’s Guelph district office, said Northstar is “one of the largest TCE sites in Ontario.”

Mediation and monitoring have been ongoing as the ministry works to come up with a solution. It hired Dillon Consultants to look at the problem and the options to deal with it. On Wednesday, May 31, Dillon unveiled its preferred options at a public information meeting at the Fairview Mennonite Home, where about 45 people attended the afternoon session.

Thomas Grimminck, project manager with Dillon, explained to the group 11 options were considered and then boiled down to a short list of four remedies. The final four options were further explored and two possible solutions were provided to the ministry.

“This has been a long, drawn-out process, and it still has a long way to go,” said Shaw.

Dillon’s report recommends two options, which can be used either individually or in combination. The first is called in situ reductive dechlorination, which injects a solution of iron and anaerobic bacteria into the ground to neutralize the TCE. The second solution is a permeable reactive barrier, where a screen of reactive materials is installed beneath the ground across the path of the contamination to neutralize the chemicals as they pass through a barrier screen. In the latter case, the barrier has to be replaced every 15 years.

Using either method will require further study to nail down the details and then an implementation plan can be developed, according to the Dillon report.

Shaw anticipates it will take roughly two years for ministry staff to study the recommendations, fill in gaps in the data and set a direction for the remediation. Once a course has been set, the remediation plan could be implemented by 2022.

Environmental study about to start on Park Hill…

Following the 2012 Northstar bankruptcy, the ministry and the company’s directors and officers reached a $4.75-million settlement to help offset the ongoing costs. Currently, the ministry is spending in excess of $1 million to fund the operation and maintenance of the indoor air mitigation systems needed for the homes involved. It also covers the cost of operating and maintaining the groundwater extraction system, groundwater indoor air, and surface water monitoring programs and contracting services.

The ministry’s current contract provider ends in November, but it is now in the process of putting out a request for bids for a new contract lasting up to another five years.

Once the Northstar settlement funds are exhausted the ministry has plans in place to support ongoing monitoring and mitigation for another 60 years, Shaw said.

As for how long the cleanup might take, that is unknown said ministry officials.

“Technology is changing all the time and there is a lot of new things coming along that we’ll have to look at,” Shaw explained.

In addition to contamination of ground water in the Bishop Street community, the TCE is giving off vapours through the soil, which are rising though the basements of some homes in the neighbourhood.

As a result, 84 homes within the Bishop Street community continue to be serviced by 19 soil vapour extraction systems, which are located in storage sheds in the backyards of some of the homes. Based on Dillon’s report, the ministry is now considering going with a different option. Officials are pondering a standalone sub-slab depressurization (SSD) system. The SSD system would provide a similar level of mitigation for homeowners to the current SVE system, but would service an individual residence instead of multiple homes. The SSD system would be less intrusive, require less maintenance and cost significantly less to operate and maintain.

The ministry will ensure monitoring and indoor air mitigation throughout the neighbourhood for as long as necessary.

Also attending Wednesday’s meeting was Jon Hebden, an account manager with the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC). He explained MPAC had reduced the assessment of 13 homes with backyard equipment sheds in the neighbourhood by 10 per cent in 2012, and continued to apply that reduction in last year’s property reassessments.

Hebden said MPAC is also ready to re-evaluate the assessment on any home in the neighbourhood upon request.



3 Responses to New options being considered for Northstar remediation

    Tracy Hipel June 3, 2017 at 7:46 am

    Real nice that the councillor who has refused to help us makes sure he gets the photo op
    This is what I read at the meeting

    We are now far from the original date of 2004 when we first heard about TCE and we were told that it should take 5 to 10 years to clean up. It is now apparent that this will be a long term ,if not permanent reality as we are entering the 13th year that I have had an SVE shed on my property.

    In 2006 the city hired a consultant at tax payers expense to look at property values in the area for homes that were affected by contamination. In that report the consultant agreed that home owners should be compensated on their property taxes. In March 2016 I approached the city to ask for help for other owners who have SVE sheds and was told that some people don’t want their taxes reduced.. After holding my own meeting, the group of owners who were never asked and wanted a reduction all received one. If my councillor and the city can vote to forgive a $70,000 tax arrears from Dunfield theatre and the possibility of waiving the $256,000 in back taxes that was owing on the Northstar plant, then why does the city refuse to help residents by no fault of their own who have contamination also get a tax reduction that the consultant says that we are entitled too?

    In 2013 I attended the environmental tribunal and found that the pump and treat system at the site is not preventing ongoing discharge of contaminants from the site. I also learned that when Northstar filed for bankruptcy the MOE asked the city for assistance to keep the hydro on the sheds and other sub slab systems and the former CAO’s response was infrastructure is more important. This is after reading the health department saying that discontinuing the mitigation of indoor air would put undue and increased health risk to residents. I guess granite curbs and pet projects are more important then residents health.

    In 2014 an update came on the drinking water well p6 located in Dunbar park where most us who grew up around here received their water from has been shut down since 2011 due to a cracked liner and is also considered not a priority to fix at this time. In the 2013 tribunal you would think that there would be some mention of the well that everyone is worried about being shut down for 2 years, and why did it take 3 years for the region to let us know that it is offline? Makes you wonder?

    In 2016 the city passed a motion that everyone has a right to breathe clean air, drink clean water, and consume safe food. How does the city plan on helping people in this area because our rights are being violated.

    For the average of $250.00 a year tax reduction that we have to fight for every 4 years because the city wont help, I ask you this, Would you let me put a shed on your property, have access anytime and not be able to use it, not being able to sit outside due to the constant noise and having to call hydro for the last 3 bills to see what my hydro use is.. IS IT WORTH IT?

    This is just a portion of what has been going on for the past 13 years.

    I am now requesting to remove the SVE unit from my property. and suggest putting it on the boulevard where the the city can’t hide the problem in our back yards anymore and they can now take ownership of all of the issues that we have all been dealing with for 13yrs. I also believe that others will be requesting the same.

    Tom Vann June 3, 2017 at 8:06 am

    This is the way it gets done in Cambridge Tracy. Your problem is you don’t own a million dollar home, go to the arts clubs, fly a rainbow flag, donate to certain corrupt election campaigns, or kiss someone’s fat ass. Donna Reid is useless for our ward and refuses to help with our pollution issue as well. It has nothing to do with a woman or homo’s issue so it aint there I guess. One day, someone just might go Postal! I love the get it off my property idea.

    alan marshall June 3, 2017 at 11:24 am

    I just had a thought based upon Tracy’s and Tom’s comments. Wouldn’t a similar looking garden shed with a small explanatory plaque installed in a nearby local park be a good visual representation of 21st century “environmental pioneer” life? You could call it art and “donate” it to the City of Cambridge with an Honourable Mention to past and current Councils for their empathy and concern. I wonder after a press conference describing Council’s “support” to the Bishop St. community; exactly how long this donated artwork would remain in the park.

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