CORNWALL CITY COUNSEL
"Things are more like they are now, than ever before"
 

THE FORMER DOMTAR MILL SITE AND ITS DUMP "BIG BEN", IN CORNWALL, ONTARIO

1881-1961
Domtar operated a paper mill on 89 acres in Cornwall, Ontario, until 2006. The original mill was built in 1881 and was acquired by Dominion Tar & Chemical in 1961 which then rebranded itself as Domtar in 1965.

1972
Domtar persuaded Cornwall City Council to permit the dumping of Domtar paper mill waste (sludge, bark and lime dregs) behind a shopping mall in the middle of the city.
Part of this 45 acre dump was sodded over while dumping continued, and Domtar funded a "bunny" ski hill there, known as "Big Ben". The Ontario Ministry of Environment approved.

Although Domtar seemingly distanced itself from the polluted lands including the leaking "Big Ben" dump, it held onto the dump Certificate issued by the Ontario Ministry of Environment -- Domtar later played that card to add toxic creosote waste to "Big Ben" from another of its polluted Cornwall properties.

1995
The Domtar dump was rapidly filling up. The problem grew as new waste water regulations required the Cornwall mill to also remove lignin and starch -- formerly discharged into the St. Lawrence River -- from its waste water. In response, Domtar began selling dewatered mill waste to Cornwall and area residents labeled as "Soil Conditioner”.

This "Soil Conditioner" was sold for home garden use and was used by local farmers as fertilizer until high levels of fecal coliforms and fecal streptococcus were discovered in the waste. The company then revealed to the Ontario Ministry of the Environment that some toilets and urinals at the mill join with the mill’s sludge generating system, instead of with the city’s sanitary sewers.

2001
The Ontario Ministry of Environment noted that leachate from the dump had migrated off the licenced site past a municipal roadway and into the groundwater on adjoining Domtar mill property.

2006
Domtar shut down operations and all mill lands, including the land on which the dump is situated were sold to 2113467 Inc., Paris Holdings of Cornwall (Property Asset Recovery Industrial Surplus) for approximately $4 million. The deal came with undisclosed terms and covenants relating to liability and clean up of soil and water affected, for over 120 years, by mill and human waste.

Domtar retained the Certificate of Approval from the Ontario Ministry of Environment for continued dumping at "Big Ben"

2007
The new owners of the mill lands began dumping demolition materials including asbestos at the dump. This was approved by the Ontario Ministry of Environment.

2007
Domtar also requested that coal tar and creosote "impacted" soil from another property it owned be allowed to be dumped at the "Big Ben" site.

This was done to facilitate the sale and development of the polluted Domtar No-Co-Rode site, on which North American Development proposed to build the Circle Square shopping centre.

2008
In spite of public opposition, the Ontario Ministry of Environment approved increased dumping of toxic waste at the "Big Ben" Domtar dump in Cornwall.

2008
The Ontario Ministry of Environment again confirmed leachate migration from "Big Ben" under both the former mill property and the local mall that houses Wal-Mart.

The Ministry further noted that runoff from the dump was collected in ditches that run off to the St. Lawrence River.

2008
The City of Cornwall entered into an agreement to purchase a parcel of land that receives polluted leachate from the dump site, in order to build a public sports facility (Benson Centre).

2010
The Ontario Ministry of Environment gave its approval to PARIS Holdings for the directing of runoff and storm water from leachate polluted property into the Cornwall Canal and the St. Lawrence River.

"No Smoking" is a must due to methane gas from the dump

The dump which is officially named, the "Big Ben Recreation And Landfill Area", currently receives waste and asbestos from the demolition of the decomissioned paper mill. And following a request by Domtar, the Ontario Ministry of the Environment has permitted increased dumping to include coal tar and bitumen waste contaminated soils, from another Dominion Tar and Chemical Co. Limited site in Cornwall. That manufacturing facility at 7th St. W. and Cumberland Street in Cornwall, produced "bituminous fibre" pipe under various names, from 1929 to at least 1976.

Even without this new dumping there are concerns over leachate (formed when water comes into contact with saturated wood residue) from the property's 80 metre high dump, built of mill waste. Leachate from wood residue storage and landfill sites contains phenolics, resin acids, tannins, and other compounds. And leachate acidity can release toxic (dissolved) metals from underlying soils. The decomposition of wood residue can also result in methane gas formation and the formation of hydrogen sulphide gas.

That’s threatening enough even if it were just tree bark and wood chips, but reports circulate that more than that was buried on the site. An examination of the ground water could confirm what else there is based on amounts of dioxins, mercury, arsenic, chromium, aluminum, cadmium, cobalt, copper nickel, lead, molybdenum, selenium, zinc… the stuff that comes from caustics, sludge and other pulp waste.



Further sources:

1.
Article by Sean Silcoff, Financial Post

Published: Monday, September 25, 2006

2.
Article by Terry Tinkess, Daily Commercial News and Construction Record

Published: Tuesday, October 10, 2006
Article by Terry Tinkess, Daily Commercial News and Construction Record
Published: Friday, February 16, 2007

3.
Labour Market Bulletin, Cornwall/Hawkesbury, Service Canada Centre

Issue: July-September 2006

4.
Maureen Reilly, Sludge Watch

Posted: Wednesday, December 15, 2004

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SITE UPDATED 27 MAR 2011