Windsor

School district criticized for keeping contamination secret

Ward 2 city Coun. John Elliott criticized the school board on Friday for not informing public about fuel contamination at old J.L. Forster high school site.
Ward 2 city Coun. John Elliott criticized the school board on Friday for not informing public about fuel contamination at old J.L. Forster high school site.

School officials should have informed the public about fuel contamination at the old J.L. Forster high school when it first learned about it, according to a west-end city councillor.

Ward 2 representative John Elliott criticized the school board on Friday for not making the information public more than a year ago.

CBC News learned this week that fuel had leaked into the soil and groundwater of the property from a neighbouring waste processing plant owned at the time by BFI Canada.

Windsor's Ward 2 city Coun. John Elliott.

"If there's a contamination that the parties know about…should they inform the community? Yes," Elliott said. "A lot of things go on behind the scenes that the public should know...It's not right, we know that's not right."

The school district knew about the contamination by October 2014, four months after Forster was shut down for good, according to a written statement from superintendent Cathy Lynd.

The Ministry of Environment confirmed it learned about the "migration of fuel" from the BFI site around the same time. Ministry officials said BFI, at that time, had "completed the removal of some underground fuel storage tanks."

Further testing was done at the BFI site, which later became part of Progressive Waste Solutions, but there was no "immediate threat to human health," ministry officials told CBC.

Controversial sale

Learning about the environmental issues more than a year later only further raises questions about the controversial sale of the Forster property to the owners of the Ambassador Bridge, Elliott said.

The school district sold the Forster site to Progressive for $1.2 million on Dec. 22, 2015. The company then flipped it to the Canadian Transit Company, which is a subsidiary of the Detroit International Bridge Company.

When the deal was made public, the district told CBC it never put the property on the market because of the legal issue with Progressive.

In a written statement issued this week, the district indicates it "entered into negotiations with Progressive" after officials "became aware of the environmental issue."

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