Residents in the Merritton neighbourhood of the City of St.Catharines had a new issue to deal with in June 2010. Flooding had damaged homes and made backyards unusable since February 2008. Many long-time residents of this area had never seen anything like this before. Large amounts of orange coloured water surged from a drain in a car-park of a townhouse complex. This orange water was in such volume that it poured like a gushing river down the asphalt driveway several hundred feet to the street and the storm water sewers.
Ministry of the Environment's local office in St.Catharines was called by a resident of Pinecrest Avenue. One of the residents who had his backyard damaged in the flooding had met with the MOE field investigator, a Mr. Hull. Stan took Mr. Hull to the driveway of the townhouse complex to show the massive amount of orange water flooding the street and storm water sewers. This orange water had been flowing for many days as the asphalt paved driveway had deep orange staining to show the flow of the water to the street. Hull commented that “this was not normal” and said to Stan “it can't be good.”
|Large amounts of orange water flowed from this drain. MOE investigator Hull saw no reason to take samples and only took photographs.|
MOE field investigator Hull took photos of the drain, driveway and water. MOE field investigator Hull did not take samples! A MOE field investigator see's something out of the ordinary, in an area where MOE had conducted an investigation and he does not take samples?
For almost two months not a word of this from the Ministry of the Environment. City of St.Catharines crews arrived late in August 2010 with a pump and tanker truck and pumped the drain for over three hours. Nothing was said to any of the residents. I had written the main office of the MOE in early August and only received a response in late September. The response was from the Niagara District Office of the MOE and dated August 27th 2010, yet the postmark on the envelope was 20.09.2010?
MOE's St.Catharines office had stated that the orange water appeared to be iron staining and that MOE had not taken any samples. In fact MOE referred this to the City of St.Catharines to assess. City of St.Catharines' crews had long been and pumped the drain, and as I spoke to the Manager for Sewers in his truck, he claimed it was only rust. At the time I visited five locations around the City of St.Catharines, including downtown and photographed storm water run-off sewers and did not find one in any location with rust.
In 2011 the orange water returned, only this time not in the car-park of the townhouse complex. This townhouse car-park had major work done to the area around the orange spewing drain. This orange water is located in a ditch behind Sun Collision and found only at one end of the building that houses the paint and refinishing shops. The orange water extends for several hundred feet down the ditch to a storm water run-off sewer installed to alleviate the flooding caused by massive dumping in the natural ravine. This orange water has stained the grass and soil, it runs down to the storm water sewer. Yet no stains are evident in the area after the sewer grate or junction culvert. If this water was to come from within the drain it would spill over both sides of the metal grate. Under no circumstances is it possible for water to move up an incline only for several hundred feet. Photographs show that the orange water is only at the end of the building that houses the paint and refinishing shops of Sun Collision.
Serious questions arise around this orange water. What can turn water that colour? It is not part of the natural environment. It is not natural at all and as Hull from MOE said in 2010, “it can't be good.” MOE didn't bother with this in 2010. The City of St.Catharines called it rust. Maybe the City of St.Catharines can send some brilliant engineers and explain how grass and weeds rust.
As questions go, there have been many surrounding Sam Demita and Sun Collision. In 2009 to 2010 an investigation ordered by the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario and conducted by staff from the Niagara District Office, yes the same office that Mr. Hull hails from. Evidence was provided that illegal waste material, such as hundreds of tonnes of asphalt, concrete with re-bar was buried by Sam Demita in contravention of the EPA (Environmental Protection Act) and Ontario Regulation #347. In addition to asphalt and concrete with re-bar, test pits found tires buried. Considering Sam Demita operates a smash repair business, and has for a few years now, he would most likely know no one can bury tires.
Yet what brought about the investigation was even more alarming. Residents on Pinecrest Avenue, some who had lived in their homes for forty more years, never having problems before, in February 2008 experienced heavy flooding. Attempts were made to get help from the City with little cooperation in return. In late 2007 Sam Demita under 418159 Ontario L bought 186 Merritt Street from Aldo & Muratori Fuels Ltd. This was at one time leased to a company selling building supplies. A large portion was part of a natural ravine. Area residents well into their sixties had told me how as children they played in the ravine and saw all manor of wildlife. It also served as a natural waterway to take melting snows and run-off from the Niagara Escarpment.
|A lush, vibrant, natural habitat for many different animals and a natural waterway. All this was torn down and some 900,000 cubic feet of fill dumped in its place.|
Sam Demita began filling in the ravine. Depth at the shallow end of the ravine was approximately 25 feet. Sam Demita filled some 420 feet into the ravine, at approximately 70-80 feet at width. An area approximately 35,700 square feet with 892,500 cubic feet of fill was dumped to fill this huge part of the natural waterway. Residents witnessed the dumping begin in late 2007. One doesn't want to imagine how many dump trucks it took to bring 892,500 cubic feet of material to dump. What was dumped into this section of the ravine? It was a huge undertaking with hundreds of dump truck loads. Neighbours had seen floodlights and heard bulldozers well into the night. A MOE investigation later revealed some of the illegal waste material, but the test pits were only dug to a 10 foot depth.
|This is what Sam Demita calls 'improving'.|
By February 2008 flooding hit homes along Pinecrest Avenue abutting the rail lines and the filled in ravine. One home suffered massive damage. Standing water in the basement, walls covered at floor level with mold, floor coverings destroyed. This individual had so much damage he called the City, as had a number of residents along Pinecrest Avenue. City sent Engineers Wilson and Winterbottom to examine the problem. It was engineer for the City of St.Catharines Ron Winterbottom who left this hand written note, “Drainage problem due to developer on Merritt St.” Winterbottom and fellow engineer for the City Mike Wilson were at the home late February 2008, and on April 2nd 2008 the City of St.Catharines delivered this bomb.
The Committee of Adjustment after a hearing on April 2nd 2008 approved the relocation of Sun Collision to 186 Merritt Street. In the Committee's Notice of Decision, this statement, “...the site will be considerably improved and will not have an adverse effect on the neighbourhood.” No decision by the Committee of Adjustment is done without committee members inspecting the site and not without a report from City Engineering. City Engineers some six weeks prior witnessed the flooding and even left a hand written note that the problem was because of a developer on Merritt Street. Not to forget that the members of the Committee would of seen the massive dumping into the ravine long before any hearing was held. How was this possible?
Homeowner Mark Leeson, who had sustained the worst damage at the time, lost his house insurance. The City could not give a damn, the flooding continued in 2008 and into 2009. With every heavy rainfall residents faced more hell in their backyards and homes. One resident was told by the City that it was his problem and he should raise the level of his backyard. Another resident did exactly that, he raised his front yard but with the continual flood it only washed his yard away.
On April 1st 2009 a Mathew Williamson, Compliance and Enforcement Officer for the Niagara Escarpment Commission had come to examine the filled in ravine. He later confirmed in writing on April 20th 2009 that, “the fill material being deposited without approvals from the respective agency(s).” How was it possible to get the Committee of Adjustment approve the application before them on April 2nd 2008?
The flooding continued throughout 2009 with no help from the City of St.Catharines, regardless of the attempts by residents. Evidence of dumping and burial of waste material considered illegal under EPA and Ontario Regulation #347 prompted the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario to request an investigation. Mr. Leeson, who had lost his household insurance even attempted calling his Merritton Councillor Jeff Burch. “On July 16 or 17” (as Mr. Leeson stated in a written statement to the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario and MOE) Councillor Jeff Burch finally returned his call. Though Mr. Leeson was not prepared for what Jeff Burch had to say. Councillor Jeff Burch said “that they know people in high places with the City of St.Catharines and this could be difficult.” Mr. Leeson never heard from Councillor Jeff Burch again. Was this a warning or a threat, it is up for discussion or interpretation. Councillor Jeff Burch has remained silent on the issue.
Finally an investigation was requested by the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario, after my evidence was provided of illegal waste material being buried by Sam Demita. This investigation lasted through to March of 2010. Photographs provided to the ECO in the application for investigation showed hundreds of tonnes of asphalt in piles that were buried. Yet MOE said that “small amounts of asphalt” was found. Considering that some 900,000 cubic feet of material was dumped into this ravine, what was found in a few test pits was small only in comparison to that total. Demita filled a ravine that was from 25 to 30 feet in depth and in a news report by Niagara this Week by reporter Alex Sommerville, it said that sixteen holes were dug at about 10 feet in depth.
A ravine with at least 25 feet in depth, at the shallow points and test pits only at 10 feet deep? Photographs that were provided to both the ECO and MOE show piles, hundreds of tonnes of asphalt that were pushed by bulldozer over the existing edge at the time. Just this asphalt alone would in all logic end up at the bottom, that is at a 25 foot depth! Over and over again the same question, how was this possible? When Demita said to reporter Alex Sommerville “that he hasn't done anything to cause floodings and there was always problems in the area,” he called the residents liars. More than a dozen residents, many long-time local residents, had never seen such flooding were simply liars according to Sam Demita.
In another interview with The Standard by Matthew Van Dongen, Demita said he “levelled” his property with clean fill. A ravine at least 25 feet in depth, with an area that was filled at 80 feet wide and approximately 420 feet in length covering approximately 34,000 square feet was considered to be “levelled.” How does anyone level a ravine? It was filled and as stated in writing by Niagara Escarpment Commission officer in writing without permits.
As the 'investigation' by MOE was completed and Sam Demita had supposedly removed the illegal waste material under the watchful eye of City of St.Catharines, Mayor Brian McMullan is quoted in the newspaper as stating that he didn't find any serious problems at Sun Collision but he had told staff to “monitor the situation.” A question lingers, what staff were monitoring what situation and where? This statement by Mayor McMullan was in a May 2nd 2010 interview. Late June 2010 large amounts of orange water was pouring from a private drain at a townhouse complex on Pinecrest Avenue. The same townhouse complex where renters had flooded basements and damage to property. As stated earlier one long-time resident called the MOE, an inspector came, he took photos of the orange water but no samples. Hull from MOE did say that “this can't be normal.” MOE supposedly handed this over to the City to handle, even though only a few months earlier they had completed an environmental investigation in the area.
City of St.Catharines came and pumped the orange water for some four hours. No notification to any resident, only if you came up to the truck you would be told it was rust. Talking to residents of the townhouse complex I was told that cars parked in the vicinity of the drain were sinking into the asphalt paved parking area. The actual paved parking where this massive flow of orange water was coming from began to sink. This information makes even clearer an issue with the City of St.Catharines from mid-2009 and Pinecrest Avenue.
|This is the private car park where orange water was first sighted in June 2010. As told by residents, the asphalt surface began to sink and a cement pad had to be put in its place.|
It had been announced that the City of St.Catharines were going to do resurfacing and sidewalk repair. As required a tender had been made public for bids to be presented from contractors. Pinecrest Avenue, Hazel Street and Kerr Street were part of the program, even though there was no surface damage at the time. Yet massive movement of water from the flooding that had damaged homes and backyards would in time damage the road surface. Yards that had been flat and even were turned into something resembling a teens face going through puberty. All because of large amounts of water that was moving at the time below the surface.
|The installation of weeping tile was not part of the Public Tender.|
Work began in May 2009 and the whole neighbourhood taken by surprise. Rankin Construction began to install weeping tile on both sides of the street. The old surface was scraped down only a foot or so and then the weeping tile. In this fashion weeping tile was installed on both sides of Pinecrest, Hazel and Kerr streets to the intersection at Bessey Street. Yet where Pinecrest was seriously damaged and the road surface in real trouble, past the intersection of Bessey Street nothing was done. More alarming was the fact that the City had not tendered for this weeping tile installation. The original tender which was made public only stated - “The work required under this program will include minor curb repairs, base repairs, manhole adjustments, asphalt milling and asphalt repaving.” Nothing in the tender to include the costly installation of weeping tile. This in fact would be an illegal job under legislative rules. Rankin Construction did not care and nor did the City.
We are now brought forward to 2012 and a situation developing that is most frightening. Orange water has been seen again though not in the private drain area. That area of the private car park has been repaved. This time in the drainage ditch directly behind the Sun Collision building. Looking at the photographs of the orange water and staining on the grass not only raises fear as to what this is, but alarming questions as to the role of the City of St.Catharines and the cover-up of the truth.
Photographs of the orange discolouration show also a sheen and rainbow effect on the surface raising questions of the possible dangerous contaminates in this water. MOE in 2010 refused to even take samples of the huge amounts of water flowing from the drain, why? That water was entering the storm water run-off system and our Lake Ontario. Who is responsible for the enforcement of the Clean Water Act 2006, or The Water Opportunities Act 2010? Everything to do with Sun Collision, its owner Sam Demita and the City of St.Catharines is now to be suspected.
A drainage ditch was dug by Trillium Railway as a result of the MOE 'investigation' of 2009/2010. This shallow drainage ditch runs the full length of the property on which Sun Collision is now situated on and for several hundred feet, to a newly installed storm water sewer and junction box. Its installation an amusing insanity had been questioned more than a year ago, the receiver of the drain and its metal grate sits some twelve inches higher than the soil surface?
On May 12th 2010 Mayor McMullan is quoted as saying, “Sun Collision and Trillium have been very cooperative with the procedures, once everything is fixed there shouldn't be anymore problems.” Mayor Brian McMullan's words only a month before the first orange water appeared in the private parking area. Now the orange water is back in the drainage ditch behind Sam Demita's Sun Collision.
Although Sam Demita dumped more than 900,000 cubic feet of fill into the natural ravine and was caught burying illegal waste material, this orange water is at the other end of the building. Sun Collision has a refinishing and paint shop at this end of the building. Orange water with the sheen and rainbow is only flowing adjacent to the back of the refinishing and paint shop. This orange water flows into the storm water sewer that Sun Collision had graciously installed, and once again into our lake and water supply. What can possibly discolour water to such a point?
|Orange coloured water has flowed in this ditch behind Sam Demita's Sun Collision constantly now for several months. What contaminates can possibly discolour water to such a level and how long has this flowed into the run-off sewer?|
An automotive refinishing and paint shop uses many dangerous chemicals. Sam Demita had also refused to obey an MOE instruction from February 2011 and move the damaged vehicles from the property line. No monitoring by Niagara's Office of the MOE of the situation could possibly of been done.
City of St.Catharines pumped the orange water from the private drain for hours and did not inform residents of what the reasons were for the discolouration. Did anyone at the City of St.Catharines take samples for testing? Or was it simply a convenience to claim rust so no investigation would be conducted? Why? What was there to hide?
The ditch dug behind Sun Collision was dug so water would run down the ditch to the storm water drain. That is logical to assume. Orange water only is evident in the ditch behind Sun Collision and only in the back of what is the refinishing and paint shop. It runs down to the drain and it does not run past the drain cover. As the photos are examined there is no orange staining on the ground past the grate away from the Sun Collision building. To quote Sam Demita from May 2010, “Water always runs down hills, where else is the water going to go?” Brilliantly spoken words Sam, hope you did mean that at the time.
|There is no orange staining on the steel grate of the run-off sewer cover away from the Sun Collision building. There is also no orange staining on the soil or grass away from the Sun Collision building.|
Phil Hull the astute MOE field inspector or investigator said to a resident of Pinecrest Avenue as he took only photos of orange water in 2010, “that's not normal, no that's not normal.” Should Phil Hull of MOE come now and take some more photos? Would Rich Vickers, manager of Niagara MOE think it normal? This situation is serious, and questions need answers. Without hesitation there are serious contaminates in this discharge into the environment. How long has this gone on? What chemicals are in this discharge? How far can this be extending into the community and its residents?
All the details have been provided to the Environment Commissioner of Ontario and it would be very hard to trust anything from the Niagara Office of the MOE. No care was shown by the MOE when this orange water was first sighted. It is the responsibility of the MOE to enforce the Environment Protection Act (EPA) and its legislation to protect our environment, human safety and wildlife. Yet the MOE has proven time and again an unwillingness to enforce its own legislation. WHY? Here in the case of Sam Demita and Sun Collision how much more is needed? After heavy snow falls (of February 11th 2012) and a meltdown how much of this contaminate will be carried to the storm water drain?
Minister of the Environment Jim Bradley and the Dalton McGuinty government only continue to play a game and put at risk the safety of the people of Ontario, and that of our neighbours in the US. We share the lakes, we are not sole owners of the lakes. Legislation is in place and instead of bragging about it, I suggest a novel idea, enforce it. Sun Collision and its owner filled in a natural ravine without permits. He dumped a massive 900,000 plus cubic feet of fill without any provisions for drainage. Sam Demita in an interview in April 2010 with The Standard's Matthew Van Dongen ”pointing to old drainage outlets at regular intervals that carry water under the now - unused rail line.” Photographs show the drainage outlets filled over with hundreds of tonnes of fill. Sam Demita said to the reporter, “The water is going the same way it always has.” Yet many area residents of thirty and more years have stated that they have never had flooding prior to Demita filling in the ravine.
In 2012 orange water raises even more serious questions. There is no longer a question where it is coming from. City of St.Catharines can no longer hide the truth and claim it is rust. Ministry of the Environment cannot walk away from it now and ignore their responsibilities. But it is the residents who are still at risk.
This has been negligence on the part of the MOE or even worse. It was the MOE who in a February 16th 2011 report stated, “In accordance with ministry policy, the file was not referred to Investigations and Enforcement Branch as there was no indication of adverse effect and the company complied with the Director's Order” Yet under Ontario Regulation #347 of the EPA it states:
Under O. Reg 347 certain waste materials, including tires and asphalt, cannot
be buried or used as fill whether or not an adverse effect is proven. Waste
asphalt is regulated as a waste whether or not it causes an adverse effect
unless it meets the exemption criteria in Section 3 (2)17 or 3 (2)18 of
O. Reg 347.”
Sam Demita buried hundreds of tonnes of asphalt intentionally. Why no penalty? Orange water is not normal nor can it be good, yet MOE refused to test. What is the MOE here for? Now this orange water in 2012 coming directly behind Sam Demita's Sun Collision is no coincidence. The sheen, rainbow and colouration raise alarming questions. What was seen in 2010, was it the result of Sun Collision as it may be now in 2012? No other explanation can be offered. Sam Demita did not give a damn about MOE instructions in February of 2011 to move the damaged vehicles and they stand at the property line today.
Now we must demand answers. How long has this orange water been leaching from Sam Demita's Sun Collision? What is in this orange water? What is the risk to the environment and to the community? How far has this orange water and the contaminates in it spread into the neighbourhood? Why did the MOE not test or sample the orange water in 2010? This orange water is being carried by the run-off sewer to Lake Ontario, and what are the possible risks to wildlife and fish?
The questions mount and get more alarming. City of St.Catharines has shown more than negligence in everything with Sun Collision and Sam Demita. From the beginning with the Committee of Adjustment's Notice of Decision in 2008 through to the pumping of the orange water in 2010. Mayor Brian McMullan said in his interview with Van Dongen of The Standard on April 29th 2010, “Sun Collision met all the requirements of its council-approved site plan agreement.” Yet in accordance with a City of St.Catharines By-Law #91-364, a By-Law to regulate sanitary and storm drainage, Section V-Storm Drainage and Connections, Sub Section 4, Sam Demita was required to provide storm drainage.
Subsection 4: All the necessary storm drainage piping, drains and
connections must be provided to accommodate storm water drainage
from ancillary hard surfaced areas (parking, roadways, etc.) from all
industrial, commercial, institutional and multiple housing dwellings in
excess of 4 suites to an existing storm water sewer otherwise approved by
the City Engineer or his designate.
City of St.Catharines By-Law No. 91-364
A By-Law to regulate sanitary and storm drainage.
When one reads sub-section 8 and examines over 35,000 square feet of parking and storage that Sam Demita had created without permit, immediately it is easy to understand why. To have applied for a permit he would have to under law provide drainage first. Instead Sam Demita breached the law with the approval of the City of St.Catharines.
We need answers now!
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