The fight over papermill sludge

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Here’s an interesting development from the world of recycling, in this case the hauling of papermill sludge (a byproduct of paper recycling) and disposing of it on land. It’s worth thinking about whether what you’re hauling is a material or, sometimes, a waste.
There was a public rally yesterday to protest the land application of papermill sludge at a site near Pelham, Ontario. The rally points up the fact that Ontario’s Environment Minister Laurel Broten has not followed through with the full application of recommendations from an expert panel assigned to study appropriate handling and disposal of papermill sludge.
A letter I received via email from activist Maureen Reilly outlines the position of people opposed to the casual land application of papermill sludge, who are calling for the implementation of the expert panel’s recommendations. I’ve reproduced the letter below with minimal editing, and I’ve also cut and pasted two other things Maureen sent me: a Hansard transcript of an exchange in the legislature over this issue and also the expert panel’s recommendations.
Dear Guy:
There was a big picket line in the rural community of Pelham, Ontario yesterday, as residents expressed their anger and concern about hundreds of truck loads of industrial papermill sludge dumped in their community. The Ministry of the Environment has failed to implement the recommendations of their own panel of scientists, physicians and experts as to how to manage this sludge material. The experts told the Minister to manage the material as a waste.
Instead the material is dumped in rural communities with no waste permits whatsoever.
Despite this, Laurel Broton, the Ontario Minister of the Environment, rose in the House to answer questions from Oppositon member Peter Kormos, and lied to the Legislature.
She said:
“I think it’s important for the people of the community to understand what the expert panel did say. The government’s actions are exactly consistent with what the expert panel said. ”
1. The Expert Panel said that any proposed site to receive the Sound-Sorb material needed a hydrogeological assessment before the sludge arrived. It said a Site Specific Risk Assessment may also need to be undertaken.
So where is the hydrogeological assessment for Pelham? Where is the Site Specific Risk Assessment for Pelham?
2. The Expert Panel said the sludge needed to be managed as a waste under a Certificate of Approval.
So where is the Certificate of Approval for the site? Why is the sludge hauled by trucks with no waste licence?
3. The Expert Panel said the sludge needed to be composted before it was brought to the site.
In fact uncomposted sludge is being brought to the site…so it is not consistent with the recommendations of the Expert Panel.
4. The Minister suggested that the sludge at Pelham had been tested for 90 chemical and bacterial parameters.
But the Ontario Minsitry of the Environment refused to provide any test results on the sludge at the Pelham site, and it is not clear that any testing was done at the site. The tests referred to by the Minister are not the same sludge as at the Pelham site. This sludge comes from Abitibi Thorold, a completely different facility than the tests provided to the Expert Panel which were from Atlantic Packaging in Scarborough and Whitby.
And since Sound-Sorb is may contain any liquid, industrial or hazardous waste there is no telling what hazardous waste material is being brought to any particular site.
The minister should publicly apologize to the Legislature for lying. And the minister should be forced to read aloud the true recommendations of the Expert Panel in the Legislature and immediately implement them.
Hansard and expert panel recommendations are pasted below.

Draft Hansard for June 12, 2006
What was said in Question Period about Sound-Sorb environmental protection
Mr. Peter Kormos (Niagara Centre): A question for the Minister of the Environment. Down in Pelham, folks are concerned, angry and afraid about a growing mountain of paper fibre biosolids, paper sludge down on Church Street. You know about paper sludge. It contains significant concentrations of acrylamide polymer, a known animal carcinogen, as well as total petroleum hydrocarbons, along with other contaminants. Despite the implications for human health and the environment that were outlined, in fact, by your expert panel, you continue to allow paper sludge to be dumped anywhere, any time with no policing, no monitoring requirements and no regulatory oversight.
Minister, will you intervene immediately to stop the dumping of paper sludge in Pelham and immediately require hydrogeological monitoring of the dumpsite that your own expert panel recommended over a year and a half ago?
Hon. Laurel C. Broten (Minister of the Environment): I thank my friend opposite for the question. It has been brought to my attention that the local residents in Pelham are concerned about these issues, and these issues were raised at the town of Pelham council meeting on June 5, just last week.
Let me be clear to the people of this community, our government favours taking a science-based approach to the assessment of the material and a precautionary approach. The ministry regularly inspects sites where the material is being placed, and at the ministry’s urging groundwater monitoring wells are being installed on some of the sites where the proximity of water is evident and any odour are dust problems are promptly being required to be responded to. I think it’s really important for the people of Pelham to know the ministry’s watching this circumstance very closely and will be there to require these steps be taken.
Mr. Kormos: Minister, it’s a frightening observation to make. The member for Erie-Lincoln and I were there on the weekend. The trucks continue to bring this sludge into this site adjacent to the Welland River and other waterways, adjacent to residential and very important farming properties.
Your own expert panel told you that there has to be not only hydrogeological monitoring but a legal framework within which the dumping of this dangerous sludge can be policed and controlled. It’s being dumped willy-nilly on property in Pelham and, in fact, across the province of Ontario.
Eighteen months after this report from your expert panel, you’ve done nothing. The people in Pelham don’t want you to watch, they want you to act. They need your protection against a potentially toxic site and against the poisoning of their waterways, their groundwater and their land. When are you going to act on this and do something positive and concrete? Do your job?
Hon. Ms. Broten: I think it’s important for the people of the community to understand what the expert panel did say. The government’s actions are exactly consistent with what the expert panel said. They said to take a science-based approach, and they said that we did not need to ban the material, but we had to take precautions. We had to put measures in place to make sure that the environment and human health were protected. The ministry has tested it for 90 chemicals and bacteria, and the tests did not indicate that there were significant effects on the environment and human health. What they did have concerns about was the groundwater, and that’s exactly the issues that I’ve mentioned the ministry is taking. Monitoring wells are being put in place and odour and dust problems are being forced to be mitigated promptly.
Recommendations of the Expert Panel on Sound-Sorb from:
6.0 Recommendations
1. There is no need to ban the use of PFB mixed with mineral soil (Sound-Sorb) for bulk use in berms.
2. There is no need to remove the OSGC berm provided long-term monitoring of the groundwater is continued.
3. Existing berms at other gun clubs should have a hydrogeological assessment. A monitoring regime in accord with the algorithm found in Chapter 4 should be established. Removal of a berm would only be appropriate as a mitigation option if contaminants in excess of the Ontario Drinking-Water Quality Standards were found in groundwater leaving the site or significant risks to human or environmental health were found on an SSRA or other risk assessment.
4. PFB should be composted before it is used in a berm.
5. Before a berm constructed of PFB and mineral soil is placed at any new location, a hydrogeological assessment should be done, and a SSRA done if the assessment indicates that one is necessary according to algorithm found in Chapter 4. The use of the proposed site for a new berm should be subject to MOE control by a Certificate of Approval or legal instrument that provides equal or better protection for human health and the environment.
6. Paper fibre biosolids should be controlled by Certificates of Approval or legal instruments that provide equal or better protection for human health and the environment at all stages from its generation, through transport, composting and final use in the construction of berms. The use of paper fibre biosolid material mixed with mineral soil should also be subject to MOE control with respect to its preparation and use in the environment by a Certificate of Approval or legal instrument that provides equal or better protection for human health and the environment.
Page of Ontario Gov’t documents on Sound-Sorb

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