Actions of city officials repeatedly fail the smell test
Fines should be paid by those
responsible, not the taxpayers
Aftereffects of the infamous "Munster Sewergate Fiasco"
have surfaced, in the news, yet again.
On February 4th, 2010, the Ontario Ministry of the Environment
filed four charges against the City of Ottawa, under the Environmental
Protection Act, for failing to contain regularly occurring odours coming from the Richmond
pumping station. The odors have persisted since 2005, when a new
forcemain began delivering sewage that becomes highly septic over its
11-kl, (26-hour), travel from Munster.
City faces provincial charges over sewer gaffes - Ottawa Citizen, Feb.
City faces new water/sewer charges - Ottawa Sun, Feb. 6, 2010
Former Mayor, Bob Chiarelli, Former Goulbourn Councillor, Janet
Stavinga and staff-chosen consultants, Conestoga-Rovers and Associates,
(CRA), appear to have acted
jointly on a pre-determined agenda for a Munster sewage forcemain that followed no logic,
flew in the face of every known precautionary principle, had no explained or explainable
rationale, caused unrelenting fear of contamination amongst Richmond
residents and cost taxpayers more than ten times the price tag on the safe communal alternative
that regional council voted for, at the outset.
Council Motions #72 and #73 - of March 11, 1998)
As if driven by lunacy, the Chiarelli-Stavinga-CRA scheme was
to send the sewage
in a route that would leave Munster in the opposite direction from its Kanata
destination, travel south to the Franktown Road, then –-below the water
table— course through the Richmond Fen, then, (without
disclosing this vital fact to other councillors), have it flow
under pressure through the drinking water source for Richmond’s 1,100
private shallow wells, then cross the Jock River bottom (southerly) to the Richmond
pumping station. From there it would finally head north to a Kanata
Rationale for Chiarelli's pipeline agenda remains
unexplained - or does it?)
Janet Stavinga: The Dr. Kavorkian of source water protection?)
The Region/City and CRA were cautioned many times by
independent engineers and residents that their unsound plan would pose a
perilous, and completely uncalled for, ongoing threat of contamination to families reliant upon
shallow private wells for their drinking water. Also, they were warned
that the long sewage transit times between Munster and Richmond would
most certainly cause persistent odours at the pump station. It fell on deaf ears.
*Whatever was the real agenda of Bob Chiarelli, Janet
Stavings and CRA, residents acutely believe --to this day-- that serving the public interest
and protecting public health were not on their list of
In fact, the many residents who voiced their palpable concerns were
defamed, ridiculed, demeaned, derided, lied
to by city officials and threatened by attack dogs, (see
photo and correspondence), throughout various phases of planning and construction. One resident was even
maliciously sued by CRA, (See:
Landowner's Magazine-Feb-08), for the amount of $4.2M in a classic "SLAPP" suit,
of suit), to silence him, (See: Public
Interest Advocacy Centre Executive Summary on SLAPP action suits),
while he tried to bring clarity to the human and environmental risks
that were long-foretold by independent professional engineers -- and
are now starting to manifest themselves.
The end result was that even though one of the top environmental
lawyers in Ontario determined that the Environmental
Assessment process was "improperly", and in fact, "illegally" conducted,
Northey Meeting with Richmond residents), the cries
for help from Richmond residents were ignored at City Hall, (Petition
to Mayor and Council), as well as at the Ministry of the Environment, (MOE), and all the way up to Premier McGuinty’s
office. Part of the Village struggle is documented here:
"Drinking water sources should be protected by developing
watershed-based source protection plans." -Walkerton Report
Construction of the hazardous misbegotten forcemain went ahead regardless, leaving the
vulnerable residents feeling, among other things, that there have been
numerous breaches of the public trust combined with
reckless and unwarrantable public endangerment that must still be
addressed in the courts or through a judicial inquiry. Better to have the
inquiry before there are fatalities, rather than as the result of fatalities.
Now that the Abatement and Enforcement Branch of the MOE is proving
numerous findings of the long-predicted illegal odour offences, the
Ministry has an obligation to conduct increased due diligence on the
file in order to expose the underlying gross negligence that led to the
creation of such an irresponsible 'ticking time bomb' threat of slow leakage
of sewage into Richmond's private wells.
The MOE must realize that the odour revelations are the
'canary in the coal mine' indicator of a much greater threat that
has to be reversed, before deaths occur.
The MOE’s recent additional charges against the city clearly
demonstrate proof that city officials were wrong and that resident
fears, complaints and the many engineering expert predictions were justified all along.
It is also clear, from the Ottawa Sun story on February 6th,
that the vindicated residents will not quit fighting until the danger is
removed and until Richmond residents will no longer
have to remain, as 'held captives', in harm's way.
Resident raises a stink at City Hall - Ottawa Sun - 100206
But that's not enough!
The city and the MOE both have legal,
moral and ethical obligations to take responsibility for allowing this
massive assault to occur against the public interest, against the public
trust, but most critically: against public health and safety.
They must now step in swiftly, to correct it.
The problem can
be cost-effectively solved for less than $5-Million by using one of the Council-mandated safe communal solutions,
originally approved. For a more pragmatic perspective on the 'do nothing' alternative,
contrast $5-Million against the price tag for Walkerton's contaminated
water crisis which has so far cost Ontario taxpayers more than