ICYMI: MOE nixes Clean Harbor’s Thallium storage plan


    An Aamjiwnnang councillor calls it a “small win in a large fight.”
    The Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks has turned down Clean Harbors application to accept thallium at its Petrolia Line site.
    Clean Harbors has been working with a BC company since 2017 to ship up to 175,000 tonnes of the waste overland to the Brigden area site. The company planned to take the drums of the toxic powder – waste from the heavy metal industry – and place them in another sealed drum. Those drums would be packed in shipping containers which would be filled with foam to stabilize them. The containers would then be wrapped in two heavy liners, placed on two feet of sand at the top of a closed cell and then covered with clay in an area 100 by 100 meters.
    With seven layers of encapsulation, Mike Parker, vice president of environmental compliance for the company, said it would be highly unlikely any of the thallium would leak out.
    Clean Harbors was on the verge of getting approval from the ministry when Aamjiwnnang officials called the company saying it had not been fully consulted. On May 15, Clean Harbors officials met with members of the community to talk about the project and was met by strong opposition, including from young children in the crowd. One community member said with all the chemical plants around the community, Aamjiwnnag is “like sitting ducks” for environmental problems.
    When pressed by the crowd for a guarantee the thallium – which causes damage to the nervous system and shouldn’t be exposed to skin – would not leak, Parker said “it probably won’t happen, but those things do happen.”Parker vowed to include the “strong opposition” from the community in his final report to the ministry.
    This summer, The Independent received calls from both Clean Harbors and Aamjwinnang officials asking about the tone of that public meeting – with Clean Harbors suggesting there had been threats made to its employees.
    The newspaper responded that it had not heard threatening language only emotional concern about the proposal.
    On Aug. 1, Director Mohsen Keyvani turned down the request.
    “The reason for not approving the alternate method of managing thallium waste and and blending of hazardous wastes are the Director is not satisfied that these alternate methods of managing hazardous wastes provide an equivalent degree of environmental protection as the existing standards in Ontario Regulation 347,” he wrote in his brief decision.
    Parker was unaware whether opposition to the plan from Aamjwinnang played into the decision.
    Aamjwinnang Councillor Janelle Nahmabin was unaware the plan had been rejected until she was contacted by The Independent.
    She says it is “a small win in a large fight” since the community is surrounded by chemical plants.
    And she credits the young people at the open house in May for sharing their concerns. “It just goes to show when you give youth the opportunity to say what really concerns them, it helps,” she says.
    “They didn’t want this…and they need to be taken seriously.”
    The period of appeal for the decision has long past, but Parker, in an email, says the company is considering whether it should improve the thallium plan and then seek ministry approval for the project again.