Province unveils plans for New Harbour dump cleanup

The provincial government announced on Wednesday that it has come up with what it considers a solution to the PCB levels at the New Harbour dump site, but at least one resident remains doubtful.

Resident still doubtful government has a solution that will work

Resident Allan Williams questions the government's solution to the PCB levels, reports Azzo Rezori 2:15

The provincial government announced on Wednesday that it has come up with what it considers a solution to the PCB levels at the New Harbour dump site.

Environment Minister Tom Hedderson said he's confident the final stage of the plan will prevent PCB levels from increasing.

The dump closed in 2009, but it left behind an environmental mess that dates back to at least the early 1990s. Scrap transformers had been dumped at the site.

Environment Minister Tom Hedderson says the cap will contain the PCB contaminants at the New Harbour dump site. (CBC)

Government at the time was told the transformers were cleaned of any of the cancer-causing agent, but later assessment revealed PCBs were present.

In some areas, PCB levels are 10 times the acceptable limit. Government's plan is to contain the mess, rather than clean it up.

According to Hedderson, the final stage includes capping the area off completely to prevent the migration of PCBs, as well as keep anyone from coming in contact with the harmful chemicals.

"We listened, we responded, and we believe that we have successfully contained what could be a very serious health risk not only to humans, but to animals and fish life as well," he said.

Hedderson said government has spent a total of $1.8 million to date on the remediation of the New Harbour dump.

"Obviously we had a difficulty and it was a risk to human health of anyone that was in around [it], so we had the challenge then of making sure we could contain that," Hedderson said.

"The soil is still there but we have engineered a cap and a system that is going to ensure that it stays encapsulated and there's no migration of it offsite. It was the best solution to a very significant risk."

Government doing what they can

NDP MHA George Murphy said the government is doing the best that they can with a bad situation they inherited.

"This is a sad environmental legacy that this province has to deal with — it's very sad. It tells you of what we've done to our environment in the past and what we've got to continue to do in the future to remediate past problems," Murphy said.

According to Murphy, the provincial government should be finding the party responsible to help pay for some of the costs.

"Government was told that all of these items were cleaned of any PCBs and everything, that they were all neutralized, if you will, and as it turned out they weren't," he said.

"So somebody bumped these transformers, left us with the environmental time bomb, if you will, that still exists that may have to be addressed in the future."

Resident not convinced

The New Harbour resident who blew the whistle on the environment problem 12 years ago is not convinced this is a real solution to the problem.

Allan Williams says he's not convinced government's solution of putting a cap on the PCB contaminated area will work. (CBC)

Allan Williams said the cap over the PCBs won't be able to contain all of the chemicals.

He said the groundwater from the swamp and a nearby pond across the highway will still enter the dump site and leech contaminants into the environment.

"If you don't stop the water from getting through the dump, you can put all the caps on you like," he said.

Williams said government documents state the problems dates back to 1992, but the documents he has kept show a transfer of the contaminated transformers took place in 1985 under direct orders from the Department of Environment without any supervision.