Monday, April 22, 2024

Reader Suggests Moratorium on TC Energy Project – Wants Answers About Contamination, Remediation and Long-tern Public Health

Dear Editor,

There are many concerns about the environmental harms TC Energy’s proposed pumped storage project will have on a part of the Niagara Escarpment – a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve – and the waters and aquatic ecosystem of the Georgian Bay basin. They range from causing fish kills and endangering species at risk; to destroying wildlife habitats; increasing greenhouse gases during construction and operation, and introducing magnetic fields into the waters with unknown impacts on marine life.

Because of these threats, thousands of residents and visitors to the Georgian Bay area are alarmed with the prospect of the $4.5 billion dollar project getting the green light. So too are the municipal councils of Parry Sound, the Township of the Archipelago, the Township of Georgian Bay, and the Town of the Blue Mountains. They’ve all passed resolutions opposing the project.

Two of the aforementioned councils cited another very disturbing reason for their opposition. If approved, the project will be on the heavily contaminated lands of the 4th Canadian Division Training Centre in Meaford. Much of the area is littered with unexploded ordnances (UXO) and dangerous pollutants. If disturbed by the project’s massive excavation and construction activities, harmful toxins could leach through soil and groundwater into the bay, the source of drinking water for thousands of residents across the whole of the basin area.

In fact, on June 14, 2021, there was also cause for concern among Meaford’s council members, five of whom sit on our current council. Having heard earlier of a presentation by federal officials to staff outlining the severity of contamination, that council passed a resolution (#2021-18-02) directing the then mayor to write to the federal government ministers of the day, i.e. Minister of National Defence and Minister of Environment & Climate Change, to ask for full public disclosure of the contamination and the 25-year plans to remediate the site.

In researching this issue, I asked the municipality for confirmation that the letters were sent. The response back from the Deputy Clerk on March 21, 2024 is ambiguous. “He (the Acting CAO) indicated that he assumes a letter was sent but because he cannot access the previous mayor’s files, he does not have a record of it being sent and he is also not aware of any responses being received.”

Regrettably, this suggests to me the current Meaford council made the momentous and pivotal decision to grant conditional ‘willing host’ status to the TC Energy project without the full information needed to determine the risks to public health and the environment.

This raises a number of questions.

  1. Were the letters sent? If not, why not?
  2. If sent, were responses received and what did they reveal?
  3. On behalf of all of us concerned about long-term public health and the environment, will Meaford Council demand full public disclosure of the degree of contamination from UXOs, perfluorinated alkylated substances (PFAS), heavy metals and the cancer-causing industrial degreasing agent trichloroethylene (TCE), a chemical solvent and carcinogen commonly used from the 1950s to the 1990s on military bases across North America?
  4. Will our current council demand public disclosure of the 25-year remediation plans and associated costs before giving any further consideration to the TC Energy project?

These are very reasonable and responsible requests. Contamination of military sites is widespread and the public health and environmental collateral damage are very real.

Just last week, the Department of National Defence and the City of North Bay said they are about to begin a $20-million project to remediate a site contaminated with PFAS, often referred to as ‘forever chemicals’ because they are resistant to breakdown in people and the environment. The chemicals, linked to certain cancers and other health problems, leached into the groundwater, contaminating local wells and Trout Lake, the source of the municipality’s drinking water.

Elsewhere, veterans and residents who lived at Canadian Forces Base Valcartier north of Quebec City and in the neighbouring community of Shannon, continue to seek compensation via a class action lawsuit for physical harm caused by contamination of groundwater and their drinking water by Trichloroethylene (TCE) coming from a neighbouring munitions factory.

The public has a right to know the full extent of contamination at the Meaford training centre and its long-term threats to humans, wildlife, marine life, and the flora and fauna. Until there is full disclosure and independent proof that seepage into the water and air around the whole of the Georgian Bay basin can be prevented, there should be a moratorium on the TC Energy project.

Respectfully,

Anne Boody Horwood, Meaford

A Concerned Citizen

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