Ontario NDP demands answers about Etobicoke chemical fire cleanup

Members of Ontario’s Official Opposition are demanding answers about what exactly is in the chemical runoff that has spread to two Etobicoke watersheds and into Lake Ontario following a massive industrial fire on Aug. 11 and the risks that this “dangerous sludge” may pose.

In an Aug. 24 letter to David Piccini, the province’s minister of environment, conservation, and parks, NDP MPPs Sandy Shaw (Hamilton West-Ancaster-Dundas), Peter Tabuns (Toronto-Danforth), and Bhutila Karpoche (Parkdale-High Park) say that the six-alarm fire at chemical distributor Brenntag Canada Inc., at 35 Vulcan St. in Rexdale, “caused chemical sludge to spill and spread rapidly,” killing “countless local wildlife and destroying their habitats.”

“Local residents and visitors have been impacted and are in need of clear information,” they wrote.

“Neither Brenntag nor your Ministry have been transparent with the public about which chemicals were spilled, let alone the risks that they pose.”

On Aug. 18, the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks said GFL, the contractor tasked to clean up the spill, has deployed four boats to assess how much material made it into Lake Ontario and come up with additional measures after various structures put in place to contain the mess from spreading further in Mimico and Humber creeks were breached due to heavy rain.

Mimico Creek cleanup

The Ministry said earlier this week that cleanup efforts could take until October.

The letter’s authors, meanwhile, are seeking a “clear timeline and expectations for the clean-up operations” with details about why it is expected to take until October to be done, what measures have been taken to ensure those affected are fully informed about the risks of contamination at nearby beaches and watersheds, and what chemicals are involved.

“As Minister of the Environment, it is your responsibility to ensure transparency and stewardship of Ontario’s precious green space, and the safety of the people and wildlife who visit and live within in,” they said.

Shaw, Tabuns, and Karpoche are also calling on the Province to provide emergency funding for the Toronto Wildlife Centre (TWC), which they called a “critical public partner in the efforts to protect local wildlife” that is “repeatedly under resourced.”

Following the fire, TWC quickly stepped up to assist with mitigating its impacts on local wildlife. As of Tuesday, the non-profit organization confirmed that it rescued more than 100 birds, however 18 have died.

“We share (Toronto Wildlife Centre’s) concern, and request that they be provided with emergency funding to ensure they can provide timely and effective operations,” the MPPs said, adding with the Auditor General’s recent scathing report on the Greenbelt, Ontarians have “good reason to doubt your government’s intentions when it comes to environmental protection.”

“By releasing a full transparent timeline for this cleanup operation and fully funding the public partners who are protecting the environment, you can help rebuild that vital trust, day-by-day.”

Humber Bay

CP24.com has contacted both the Ministry as well as Brenntag for comment.

With files from CTV News Toronto’s Alex Arsenych and CP24’s Bryann Aguilar.

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