Volume 93, Issue 29

Thursday, October 21, 1999


Debate kick starts BOG race

Sunday's sexy Sue titillates Western crowd

Thames clean up ordered for blob

Bill Gates denied honorary access

Researcher finds link to love handles



Thames clean up ordered for blob

By Nina Chiarelli
Gazette Staff

London has become the scene of a bad B-movie, as a giant blob seems to be taking over the Thames River.

Dan Schultz, press secretary for Environment Minister Tony Clement, said the minister's staff was directed Monday to begin the clean up process. "We usually try to find the responsible party and make them pay. We don't think taxpayers should pay, but in the meantime, let's get this situation cleaned up," Schultz said.

Presently, meetings are underway between the province, the City of London and London Hydro to discuss who will foot the bill, he added.

The blob, discovered Sept. 13 by a fisherman on the south bank of the river, measured 110 metres long and 16 metres wide, said Bob Massecar, communications officer of the southwestern office of the Ministry of the Environment.

He explained the blob is coal tar, a by-product of the coal gasification process which was occurring across the road at the City Gas Company between 1853 and 1939. "Coal tar was being burned to provide gas for lighting," Massecar said.

It has been determined the blob is not underneath the river basin, he added. His office could not officially determine the overall danger of the blob at present.

Massecar stated his office is predicting a clean up cost between $250,000 and $550,000.

Although London Hydro general manager Bernie Watt said the land where the blob was discovered does not belong to London Hydro, his company is interested in cost covering discussions because of the importance of a quick clean up job.

"We undertook being involved because we have land that surrounds the river at various places," Watt said. "It is not on our land and we don't own the land, but we want to get involved as good citizens." Watt added London Hydro's insurance company would be footing the bill if the company was involved in any type of payment plan.

While the blob has been cordoned off by London Hydro for safety reasons, Jim Reffle, director of environment at the Middlesex and London Health Unit, said there is no reason to panic. "Our research shows it has more of an environmental impact than a public health concern," he said, adding a person would have to wade into its middle for the blob to cause a health risk.

Reffle explained London's water supply is not drawn from the Thames, so the likelihood of exposure is minimal.

Liberal Member of Parliament Jim Bradley, who is the party's environment critic, said he thought the situation was very serious. "The government is trying to dither and postpone cleaning it up," he said. Bradley said the blob should be cleaned up immediately because of the potential danger to wildlife and people in the area.

Tracey Sobers, press secretary for Liberal leader Dalton McGuinty, said the matter came to her office's attention from concerned local residents. "The cost is not a major concern, but the mess needs to be cleaned up immediately," she said.

Deputy Mayor Anne-Marie DeCicco said although nothing has been finalized in terms of cost or payment, the city is very serious about cleaning up London's most important waterway.

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Copyright The Gazette 1999