From the 1950’s till the 1980’s the residents of northeast London played along the banks of one of London’s waterways. Occasionally falling in, or purposely swimming in it’s waters.
During that same time a local factory saw it as a convenient disposal area, for liquid waste. Over the years these two views collided, with sinister repercussions for the community. I am of course referring to Pottersburg Creek, and the dumping of PCB’s into it by the Westinghouse factory.
When I first heard that the provincial government was going to put over $50 million into cleaning up the PCB Storage site from the clean up of the creek several thoughts ran through my mind.
1. Good the government is making an effort towards environmental responsibility
2. Wait, the PCBs are still here?
3. Wait, Westinghouse/ Asea Brown Boveri were forgiven responsibility from future claims for $800,000.
4. Wait what was done for the members of the community exposed to this disaster?
5. Wait, why are our tax dollars being used to clean up ABB’s mess, while those responsible hold the property next door… waiting.
Over the next couple of weeks doing research I found that there are still more questions unanswered and a man also seeking those answers, Ali Haidar.
I called Mr. Haidar to ask him what got him involved in this issue. The answer was quite simple, his father, who worked at the Westinghouse factory in the 70’s and 80’s, was a man who never smoked, but developed lung cancer, that moved into his brain a few months ago.
Mr. Haidar is seeking answers. He like I was not aware the PCBs were stored on site here in London for the last 20 years, and has found that many of the residents in northeast London were also not aware that 2,100 truckloads of contaminants from the creek were in plastic containers buried in the neighbourhood. He decided to try and gather as much information as possible to present at a general meeting for the community.
This is when more details began to appear, from those affected by the contaminants. One person believes the government purchased the dumpsite from Westinghouse for $2, and perhaps there was to be a future clean up later. Another commented on oil being dumped into the ravine as common practice from the 50’s till the 80’s. Other’s have approached me with stories of rare cancers.
So “what is the purpose of this community meeting?” I asked Haidar.
First – to find out who is responsible for the current situation and why. Is it the owners of Westinghouse, for dumping into the creek? Or is it the government who made the decisions to let Westinghouse off without further expense, and did they choose the storage site? Are they monitoring it?
After we find out who is responsible, then we need to see if there should have been compensation for the victims, and what the long term affect has been on this community, and who should be footing the bill for this.
My opinion is simple. How can a company set up in our city, pollute the area and put the community at risk, then close up shop and no longer be responsible for their actions, after the initial cleanup, for an $800,000 payment leaving the government pay $56 million of our tax dollars to finish cleaning up their mess?
If a company makes a mess, it should be obligated to clean it up.
Just for perspective let me give you some figures. ABB, the purchasers of Westinghouse, and this factory, declared over $29 billion in revenue in 2007.
Yet it’s our Tax dollars being used to clean up this mess.
For more information on this issue visit online (see link), or attend the community meeting, 606 First St., Wednesday (April 30).
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Daniel O’Neail is a London political figure, environmentalist, and public speaker. Opinions are those of the author. Contact Daniel by e-mail (see link).