Prince Edward County’s Newspaper of Record
June 15, 2024
19° Mainly Sunny
December 12, 2023
Volume 193 No. 50

Red Roads: Gypsum joins uncovered bauxite at the Terminals

When Picton Terminals was first charged by the Federal Ministry of the Environment (MOECC) in 2016, it was for uncovered petcoke, a toxic byproduct of the petroleum industry, blowing onto neighbouring properties.

Complaints of uncovered stockpiles of first bauxite and then gypsum at Picton Terminals were sent to Council, Quinte Conservation, and the Ministry of the Environment last month.

Gypsum, often used in fertilizers, is a hydrated calcium sulphate, a hazard because it turns to a saline when it comes into contact with water. Bauxite is toxic and must be stored in a dry area. Environmental precautions include  avoiding runoff to waterways.

It informed the Ontario Superior Court that it planned to build two covered storage structures to prevent pollutants like road salt and other hazardous chemicals from leaching into waterways in 2018.

Gypsum (left) and bauxite at Picton Terminals. (Ryan Wallach for the Picton Gazette)

These structures still have not been built.

A football-field sized pile of bauxite was unloaded from a cargo carrier at the Terminals on November 12. Huge outdoor stockpiles of gypsum joined the bauxite on November 24. They are still in plain sight on Picton Bay.

The bauxite, which can be used to make cement, is being trucked to another location. Drivers have reported a toxic trail of the red sand on the roads surrounding the Terminals. As one reader wrote, she wondered for a second if this was Prince Edward Island. (See Letters)

In response to the complaints about the bauxite, the Ontario Ministry of the Environment (MECP) conducted a site visit at Picton Terminals on November 23. They said they saw no evidence of improperly stored materials.

“Ministry staff conducted a site visit on November 23 and confirmed the company has implemented measures to control stormwater run-off, including the requirements of the ministry approved interim action plan,” they wrote.

“Ministry staff did not observe any bauxite blowing off site.”

The Interim Action Plan is in place — “interim” meaning temporary — because the Terminals still has not built the stormwater mitigation works it has been promising to build since 2018.

In March 2020, the Terminals, which is owned by ABNA Investments, was ordered again to build stormwater mitigation works. It was granted an Environmental Compliance Approval by the MECP to create the structures necessary for the safe storage of materials hazardous to the environment, in particular Picton Bay, the town’s sole drinking water source.

That permit expired in March of this year, with the structures still not built. Picton Terminals has applied for an amendment, which is currently under review. As MECP writes,

“The ministry continues to ensure that Picton Terminals is taking appropriate steps to minimize impacts on Picton Bay resulting from activities at the Terminal. An amendment application for Picton Terminals’ Industrial Sewage Environmental Compliance Approval is currently under review.”

“Picton Terminals is operating with measures to control stormwater run-off, as well as requirements for surface water and groundwater monitoring. Ministry staff will continue to assess compliance with all requirements.”

The Gazette has requested the results of ongoing surface and groundwater monitoring at the Terminals. If, as is claimed, the Terminals is storing hazardous materials properly, so that wind cannot blow them around, and controlling storm water run-off, the groundwater monitoring results should be reassuring.

Meanwhile, one of the requirements of the Interim Action Plan is that the Terminals notify the Ministry of all deliveries at least a week ahead of time. The ministry was completely unaware of the gypsum delivered at the Terminals the day after their site visit, on November 24. Instead, they wrote,

“The ministry is aware that Picton Terminals also has gypsum stored on site, delivered in October 2023. Gypsum was not delivered on November 23rd and the gypsum on-site is being stored in a pit that is protected from the wind.”

The letter, however, refers to a delivery from the previous month. The gypsum delivered the next day is stored outside and uncovered.

The Gazette is seeking clarification.

This text is from the Volume 193 No. 50 edition of The Picton Gazette
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