Letter to MP Joe Preston regarding Harbour Development Joe Preston, MP 2-24 First Avenue St. Thomas, Ontario N5R 4M5
November 25, 2013
As you know, I am a director (and former president) of the PSVA. I write as the chair of the PSVA subcommittee responsible for moving forward the harbour development in Port Stanley.
I refer to (a) correspondence dating back to 2009 between Transport Canada, the PSVA and Dan McNeil, now a councilor for the Municipality of Central Elgin, culminating in a letter from March of this year from the PSVA to Debra Taylor at Transport Canada and (b) the divestiture agreements entered into between Central and Elgin and the government of Canada on September 8, 2010.
As we said in our letter to Debra Taylor in March, we were very pleased that the divestiture agreements were finalized and we were also encouraged to see that the risk assessment process was commenced and lead to the submission of CH2MHill’s report, entitled Port Stanley Harbour Risk Assessment and Management Plan Draft dated November 2010 (“Risk Assessment”). The signing of the divestiture agreements was an extraordinary political accomplishment achieved in complicated circumstances. We give particular credit to you, as our MP, for mobilizing the government of Canada and to the municipal councillors of Central Elgin.
Progress on this issue since the achievements of September 2010 and the prompt release of the Risk Assessment later that year have been less impressive. I write, therefore, to ask that you do all within your power to bring this issue back to the forefront in the manner detailed below and to achieve material progress on it, just as you did in 2010 when your intervention resulted in the signing of the divestiture agreements and the completion of the Risk Assessment.
We understand that the environmental assessment process under Ontario law stipulates that Ontario’s Ministry of Environment had 22 weeks to review and comment on the Risk Assessment. Within that period, and still during 2011, the MoE submitted its written comments on the Risk Assessment. The MoE required more detailed work to be carried out by Canada. We understand that CH2MHill was retained to carry out that further work, that some work was undertaken and that a revised report of some description (“2013 Report”) responding to the MoE’s concerns was prepared and submitted to Transport Canada and Central Elgin, but not yet to the MoE. We are also advised that Decommissioning Consultant Services (“DCS”) has been retained by Canada and that DCS expects to submit a further report (“DCS Report”) to the MoE by the spring of 2014.
The PSVA has asked Central Elgin for a copy of the 2013 Report. Even though Central Elgin did release the original Risk Assessment, Central Elgin has not released the 2013 Report. Instead we are directed to make a request for the report under the Access to Informationprocedure. The PSVA has done that but we are not remotely content with the present state of affairs on this file.
The PSVA believes it is time to consider a new approach to the remaining problems. Under the divestiture agreements, Canada has undertaken to remediate or risk manage the harbour properties to Ontario MoE parkland standards. We understand there may be some uncertainty regarding precisely what that means, including uncertainty as to whether the property will be made suitable for the erection of certain buildings that may be required as part of the plan for the affected properties. We also understand that Canada may prefer to carry out primarily longer term risk management and ongoing monitoring techniques and Central Elgin, as the new owner, may prefer more definitive but more expensive remediation techniques.
Under the current process, the timetable for achieving a final outcome is unknown. We fear that if we do not motivate the relevant branches of government to give this matter far greater priority than it now has, it could be many years before the properties are remediated. We conclude, therefore, that the current bureaucratic approach to this problem may be tantamount to failure. It will not achieve the main purpose of the process, and of the environmental laws and regulations governing that process. After all, the purpose of these is to make sure the affected properties remain safe for use by humans, pets and wildlife. Yet for as long as the process is pending, humans, pets and wildlife are using the properties every day without whatever additional protections prevailing environmental laws and regulations are meant to provide.
We suspect that the level of risk to transient humans and others even without any remediation or risk management is low, because (a) the contaminants that are present are not that hazardous, (b) they are present in low concentrations that do not give rise to material dangers or (c) they are already isolated under the ground or under artificial structures which create adequate barriers between them and human and other receptors. We also suspect that enough or nearly enough scientific assessment has been carried out that all participants have an excellent idea of where the contaminants are, which are the “hot spots”, where remediation by removal is the most appropriate approach and what measures, if any, are appropriate to deal with the remaining areas. Finally, we are certain that no matter how meticulously the formal procedure is complied with, areas of uncertainty will remain and will ultimately have to be resolved by negotiation rather than by strict application of science, procedure or the law.
For all of these reasons, we ask that a negotiated solution to any remaining obstacles following the completion of the DCS Report be implemented as soon as it is practical to do that. In fact, we do not merely ask; we insist on this. Given that we have neither the information nor the expertise to dictate any specifics, let me just give you an idea of the approach we envisage:
Carrying out minimal remediation and commencing the risk management and monitoring techniques that satisfy MoE standards within a year or two is better for the people of Port Stanley and Central Elgin than waiting for many years to achieve a potentially higher standard of remediation under the current process. Our approach should also suit the Canadian taxpayers since – provided that Canada foots the bill for this and the minimal regulatory standards are satisfied – we may be content even if Canada uses primarily risk management and ongoing monitoring, as opposed to remediation techniques.
Our main demand is as set out above. However, we also ask for the following things:
We know that you are on our side and we are confident you can accomplish the things we ask you to do. We look forward to hearing from you very shortly and to meeting with you before the end of this year.
Nigel J. Howcroft Past President/Director, Port Stanley Village Association
Ed Holder, MP, London Wes
Susan Truppe, MP, London North Centre
Premier Kathleen Wynne
The Honourable Jim Bradley, Minister of the Environment
The Honourable Linda Jeffrey, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing
Jeff Yurek, MPP, Elgin-Middlesex-London
Bill Walters, Mayor, Central Elgin
Donald Leitch, Chief Administration Officer, Central Elgin
Debra Taylor, Regional Director, Programs Ontario Region
Andrew Hibbert, Lake Erie Beacon
Chip Martin, London Free Press
Francine Dennison, Port Stanley News.comJoe Preston, MP
2-24 First Avenue St. Thomas, Ontario N5R 4M5