Volume 93, Issue 100

Thursday, April 6, 2000


UBC may adopt differential tuition

Awards to diversify industry

Toronto's code jumps first hurdle

Problems with toxic blob continue to grow

United Way tips hat to Students' Council


Golf courses get jump start

Problems with toxic blob continue to grow

By Nina Chiarelli
Gazette Staff

The Thames River's toxic blob may soon become more than just a pollution problem.

The presence of the toxic coal tar blob, discovered in the river last October, may lead to criminal ramifications if an investigation conducted by the Sierra Legal Defence Fund uncovers negligence in the blob's clean up, said SLDF staff lawyer Douglas Chapman.

"We are a non-profit organization and we act as legal counsel on environmental matters for private citizens," Chapman said.

He explained the SLDF was hired by Western professor emeritus Joseph Cummins to investigate whether or not any federal or provincial legislation had been broken as a result of the blob leaking into the river. If it was discovered environmental protection laws were indeed broken, both the City or London Hydro could be held criminally responsible on the grounds of ownership and land titles, Chapman said.

According to the Federal Fisheries Act, it is an offence to discharge a deleterious substance into a body of water containing fish. Also, it is illegal, under the provincial Water Resources Act, to discharge anything which may impair the quality of a body of water, Chapman said.

"It is also illegal under the provincial Environmental Protection Act to discharge a contaminant that is likely to cause adverse effects," he said. "So we have the choice of three pieces of legislation."

Cummins confirmed he contacted the SLDF about the Thames River contamination. "We have been studying this problem for the last few months," he said. "I am the client."

Cummins said the blob clean up needed to be finished as quickly as possible. He added he believed the threat of legal action might speed up the process. "What needs to get done is the clean up," he said. "I'm hoping there won't be a need for criminal charges."

Ministry of the Environment spokesperson Bob Massecar said he shared Cummins' view that the blob clean up needed to be completed immediately. "I can tell you that the Ministry shares the concern of the Sierra Legal Defence Fund," he said. "The matter has been turned over to the Ministry investigation branch. They will decide what course to follow."

Massecar added the clean up had been slowed because of high water levels in the river.

London Hydro general manager Bernie Watt said he could not comment on the possibility of criminal charges, as he was not aware of them. However, Watt confirmed London Hydro was eager to get back to the clean up, as soon as the high water levels subsided. "As soon as we're able to get back in there, we'll be taking it out," he said.

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