Hamilton's chemical conunDRUM.

photo by pennstatenews | flickr.com

photo by pennstatenews | flickr.com

In the North-end of Hamilton, Ontario there has been an extended toxic treasure hunt unfolding on properties once owned by John Currie. One of the sites is home to a warehouse which functioned as an asphalt and roofing company in the 1980’s under Currie’s ownership. Currie was notorious for operating his company with disregard for environmental regulations. By 1986, The Ministry of the Environment had placed 85 grievances against Currie Products, 11 of which lead to violations orders. In 1989, Currie Products was charged with five violations under the Environment Protections Act. The company could have faced upwards of $70, 000 in fines and Currie himself could have faced one year in jail along with a $25, 000 fine; however, in 1991 the company declared bankruptcy. With no money to pay the fines, four of the charges laid against Currie were dropped by the Ministry of the Environment. Currie admitted to illegally operating a waste disposal site and was required to pay a meager $6, 000.

In 2012, hundreds of chemically laden, corroding barrels were removed from the Currie Products property in an effort to clean the site. Currently, the Ministry of the Environment is discovering more, strategically hidden, barrels of potentially hazardous waste throughout the property. Clearly someone has made a conscious effort to conceal “environmental shortcuts,” as barrels have been recently found hidden behind a “false” cinder block wall.

More discretely, there are 30 drums of waste buried underground at Currie’s former shorefront property in Burlington. It is not yet confirmed who placed the barrels there, what exactly is in the barrels, and if they are connected to the Currie Products; however, history suggests a suspicious outcome. The Ministry of the Environment is exerting an impressive amount of effort scouring the properties for any more signs of hidden waste. The Ministry is approaching any leads, due to the crafty concealment of already discovered barrels. If there are more barrels to be found, they could be stowed anywhere.

The environmental effects of buried chemical waste can be devastating, especially in the “Currie case,” as the barrels have corroded over the years. The close proximity to Lake Ontario of Currie’s former home has led to the risk of chemicals leaching into the water system. If the chemicals have indeed made their way into the lake this could cause issues for ecosystems and a deterioration of water quality. Moreover, in hot weather, the chemicals in the barrels can bubble up and cause further terrestrial issues involving land organisms, including humans.

The Ministry of the Environment is committed to educating the public about the dangers of hazardous waste whether it involves unique circumstances, like the case of the Currie properties, or even in your own household. There are many forms of household hazardous waste that should never be put into sewers, house drains, or in the regular garbage. The Ministry provides services to properly dispose of hazardous waste and ensure the protection of the environment.

Although laws regarding hazardous waste disposal have somewhat improved, surely there are still chemically filled barrels buried around the country. The costs of disposing of hazardous waste are incredible which leads companies to illegally hide it. Currie is only one of many who disregard environmental sustainability in the pursuit of profits. How many others have hidden waste that has yet to be found?

 The new owners of Currie’s old waterfront property were surprised to hear that they have bought 30 barrels of hazardous waste along with their new property. Who would have guessed that while standing on the edge of their shorefront yard, gazing out into Lake Ontario, they would be standing on an environmental disaster? An interesting addition to this mystery is Currie’s demand that his estate not be sold until his death. This suggests Currie intended to hide barrels on this property and cowardly dodge the consequences.

Some sources claim Currie resides in a nursing home with dementia while others claim he has died several years ago. This lack of an “inside” source leaves the Ministry of the Environment no choice but to continue the environmental egg-hunt. We can only hope that their diligence will uncover any more buried secrets before they reveal themselves through further environmental damage.

Sources:

http://www.thespec.com/news/local/article/624202--toxic-past-and-present

http://www.thespec.com/news/local/article/915867--barrels-of-waste-found-hidden-in-wall-of-contaminated-property

http://www.thespec.com/news/local/article/916321--second-property-with-buried-barrels-under-investigation

http://www.chch.com/home/item/12447-mystery-drums-found-on-burlington-waterfront-property

http://www.flickr.com/photos/anne_flippin/24586424/lightbox/

Steve Watts