Sunday, June 24, 2012

Ministry of Environment Negligence Questioned

Minister Jim Bradley's sheer arrogance has refused to respond to the very people of his riding to this day. As Minister of the Environment he is responsible for environmental issues province wide. Bradley did intervene personally on behalf of the people of Windsor. Yet as the elected representative of his own riding he has intentionally ignored the people who are in potential harms way. In light of the undeniable facts praise like that of Niagara Falls/Fort Erie MPP Kim Craitor of Jim Bradley become more difficult to swallow.

Ministry of the Environment has forwarded a written confirmation that a second investigation by the ministry is being conducted with expected completion in early July 2012. Although the MOE has agreed to a second investigation under the weight of evidence provided so many questions remain unanswered. To a degree Ministry of the Environment conducting this investigation raises even more questions. Orange water first appeared in the vicinity surging from a drain in a parking area in August 2010. The MOE sent a field investigator Phil Hull to examine the water. He took no samples, he only told a resident that it was not a good thing. Mr. Hull's powers of observation indeed astounding, yet somewhat shocking. For whatever reason MOE decided to hand this to the City of St. Catharines and nothing else. Why? This has never been answered. City of St. Catharines could not and without a doubt would not test the orange water. It's own involvement with this property and Sun Collision's owner Sam Demita at best could be said as questionable. Simply look at the history from 2008 with the illegal filling of the ravine on through the first MOE investigation.

Now the circumstances have taken a new twist into the unbelievable. Niagara Region's most senior public health official Dr. Valerie Jaeger, MD, PhD. has lied in communications relating to the orange water and the storm water catch basin. Dr. Jaeger in separate emails to Regional Chairman Gary Burroughs, Regional Councillor Andrew Petrowski and to me lied about the first investigation conducted by the MOE in 2009/2010. Her statements shocking, claiming that MOE had investigated the orange water back in 2009 in the drainage ditch. Full details are available in Mayorgate's article: Dr. Valerie Jaeger MD, PhD., LIED!

Dr. Jaeger claims to have been given this information by MOE. A letter has been sent to Minister Bradley as the Environment Minister formally advising him that MOE Niagara Office has in fact been accused of providing lies to a senior public health official. Without a doubt Minister Bradley's arrogance will continue and he will ignore this. Still all the information and evidence has been provided to the Regional Chairman Burroughs, Regional Councillor Petrowski, all St. Catharines Regional Councillors and the Niagara Region's Board of Health members. Both Premier McGuinty and Health Minister Matthews have also been made aware of all the facts, in light of the NHS situation and the fact that Dr. Jaeger's position is approved by the Minister for Health, it would be extremely difficult for either to ignore this situation. Emails have been sent to both Regional Chairman Garry Burroughs and to Dr. Valerie Jaeger giving both an opportunity to explain themselves.

What is really happening here? That is the most difficult question to answer. Looking at the history of this property from the documented illegal filling by Sam Demita, the damage caused by flooding of an established neighbourhood, three separate applications for environmental investigation approved by the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario, and more. Ministry of the Environment found Sam Demita to have contravened Ontario Regulation #347 by burying hazardous waste material without any consequences levied by the ministry. Mayor Brian McMullan and the City of St. Catharines in fact go out of their way to protect and exalt Sam Demita.

At the same time Sam Demita refuses to obey a ministerial order for over a year and the Ontario Ministry of the Environment does nothing to enforce its own order. Can it be possible anywhere in Ontario for a business to refuse to obey any ministerial order without consequence? Or is it possible that the Ministry of the Environment have indeed lied in their own written report of February 2011? It is a question raised more than once on Mayorgate.

Lisa Feldman the Director for Investigations and Enforcement at the Ministry of Environment has been contacted on several occasions by email in April and May. As already stated Environment Minister Jim Bradley has had several letters sent to him, even at his St. Catharines riding office with only deadly silence in return. Everyone can understand the surprise when an email from Lisa Feldman landed on June 13th, maybe the owl got lost along the way or was it the article published on no ad LIB on June 10th? Whatever the reason Lisa Feldman now appears to have the official role of mouthpiece for the arrogance and ignorance of Minister Jim Bradley for his own riding and its people.

This email is not short and actually that's the part that makes one suspect that the article on no ad LIB had more of an influence. Two alarming and interesting points though in Lisa Feldman's communication. She notes my emails and letters, and mentions my attempts at communicating with Minister Jim Bradley who it appears she now speaks for. Feldman mentions the catch basin cover that had disappeared and it sounds like MOE did not have anything to do with its disappearing act. 

Missing sewer grate behind Sun Collision, 2012.

MOE has no idea who removed the grate during an ongoing environmental investigation. 

The inside walls of the cement catch basin are stained yellow.

The staining inside the catch basin is only on the walls where the drainage ditch was flowing into the sewer. 

This smells so much like what happened with another investigation in 2007. At the time MOE were in the throws of an investigation that centred on the pumping of thousands of gallons of water from an excavation pit where the soil was contaminated with mercury. The site of the excavation was on Glendale Avenue, St. Catharines next to the KEG Restaurant and the issue of contamination on the site even got the attention of the CBC who sent out reporter Stephanie Matteis.

A roadside storm run-off sewer was smashed in and pump lines snaked along the ground to avoid being too visible and the water pumped from the excavation pit. It wasn't a small hole in the ground, at approximately 55 feet in diameter and 25 feet at depth. The catch basin had strong yellow staining on the inside concrete and the cover was discoloured. At the time the base of the empty excavation pit also had yellow staining clearly visible in photos taken at the time. Some may want to claim coincidence or staining from whatever, freedom of speech allows that but logic only scoffs at it.

The original excavation adjacent to the Keg Restaurant on Glendale Ave. St Catharines in 2006. The contaminant was identified as mercury. The base of the pit had yellow staining throughout and the water that filled this pit was pumped into a storm water run-off sewer.  

This was a brownfield property with its previous history belonging to Domtar Paper Mills and further back in time a rubber factory. Contaminates were rampant in particular heavy metals such as mercury, even the current owner of the land and developer made statements in the local press regarding the contamination. Nevertheless the similarity is that the sewer catch basin grate also disappeared. The local office of the MOE was contacted and a Ken Simmons confirmed MOE did not remove it for testing, nor did anyone else admit to it. Area Supervisor for the Niagara District Office of the MOE, R.P. (Rich) Vickers confirmed in writing no one was able to ascertain what happened to the sewer catch basin grate. The developer under investigation at the time was Nino Donatelli, business partner of Sam Demita, and the land in question was only minutes from Sun Collision.

A storm water catch basin where water from the excavation in 2006 had been pumped. Its grate had been removed whilst the investigation by MOE was still ongoing. Ministry investigated the removal yet were never able to determine who actually removed the grate cover.  
Without a doubt proponents of coincidence or those with a liassez faire attitude to logic will find an explanation that suits them. Similar to a message I received from a Robert George who stated that the orange water could be explained as the residue of dye used in bricks. Yet the situation is not worthy of jest and the brilliance of the Ontario Ministry of the Environment local office is simply the collective vision of head scratching and puzzlement.

The juxtaposition of a Provincial Ministerial coincidence! Top 2 photos - grate cover goes missing 2007 during an ongoing investigation by MOE. Bottom 2 photos - grate cover goes missing 2012 during an ongoing investigation by MOE. MOE still hasn't figured out which pair of photos applies to which investigation, nor do they have any idea who removed the 200 lb.+  piece of steel. Flip a coin, coincidence or ignorance? One major difference, the cones of 2007 were more slender compared to 2012, can this be due to inflation?  
So Lisa Feldman found a way to pass the sewer grate mystery without falling into the catch basin for now. Her explanation as the question raised in correspondence to Minister Jim Bradley who has ignored everything is more shocking. It has been stated that an official MOE report of February 16th 2011 stated that Sam Demita of Sun Collision was to move the damaged vehicles from the property line. The report states “Ministry staff have observed damaged vehicles in the area but have not observed any evidence of leaking fluids. As a general rule cars leak fluids at the scene of an accident and such fluids would be subject to clean-up at the accident scene.” It continues with... ”There is no legal requirement for vehicle parking lots to have spill prevention or containment...”, very reassuring I must add, but still the “general rule” was quoted and so be it.

The most important statement of the Decision Summary is paragraph 4 on page 3. Here it states, “As a preventative measure, the property owner has already been advised to move the damaged vehicles away from the property line so as to lessen the potential for fluids to move off site and to clean up any spills detected in a timely manner.” Hold it! Didn't the report state or invoke the “general rule” of leakage at “the scene”?

Be as it may “general rule” or “preventative measure” this was and is an official Ministry of the Environment report reference #ENV1180AC-2011-2 dated February 16th 2011, and signed by Kevin French Assistant Deputy Minister, Operations Division. This report was copied to Peter Lapp of the Environmental Commissioner's Office under ref#10EBR004.1, as a response to an investigation request made by the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario relating to an application for investigation that the ECO approved. All of this means that it was not simple correspondence from the MOE but an official document of record. On that document it clearly states that the owner of Sun Collision was instructed to move the damaged vehicles as a preventative measure. The owner has refused to comply for over a year and without consequence and the reason is clear now.

Minister Jim Bradley had all the information provided and the question asked as early as February 2012. He has refused to respond. Only now in mid-June has Lisa Feldman bothered to respond after several attempts at clarification have been ignored by her. Her response is not a response to the question asked, not of Minister Jim Bradley nor of her in the emails. Feldman says, “about damaged vehicles parked by the fence on the Sun Collision property, a concern that you also raised in correspondence to Minister Bradley in February 2012. In response to those concerns the Ministry determined that there is no evidence of an offence in regards to this matter, and as such no action will be taken by the Ministry with respect to that issue.”

The question raised to the mute Minister Bradley in February was whether or not MOE had instructed the damaged vehicles to be moved as stated in the February 2011 report. That same question was raised to Lisa Feldman Director of Investigations and Enforcement. Director Feldman did not answer that question, she was also asked if MOE had indeed lied in their report. This response by her makes it a rather clear confirmation that MOE had lied in their February 16th 2011 report. No other logical conclusion can be reached other than that. Feldman's intentional omission in providing an answer would be considered in any legal procedure as lying by omission. Why has Feldman decided to do this? This is what the report of February 2011 states: “The property owner has already been advised to move the damaged vehicles from the property line...” Why has a Director of an Ontario Ministry decided to become a part of a lie and its cover-up?

There is a very serious issue at stake here and now sadly it extends beyond the borders of an environmental investigation that little trust can be expected in. Ministry of the Environment has provided for record an official report in response to an Environmental Bill of Rights investigation request by the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario and that report now appears to be intentionally misleading. This is a clear breach of the EBR by the Ministry of the Environment. As clarification has been sought only deceit and omission has come in response. How is it possible to have any trust in the current investigation by the Ministry of the Environment. In 2009 after almost two years of investigation the MOE said to disregard all test results due to interference at the laboratory. What will the result be here for orange water with a rainbow and blue sheen on its surface with a drainage ditch directly behind an auto collision paint and refinishing shop? Maybe MOE will come up with a technical term for a motor head who dropped a packet of orange KOOL-Aid on the ground.

The current MOE investigation is expected to answer whether water like this is normal for a drainage ditch in the open environment directly behind an auto collision paint and refinishing shop. After all that has happened whether the intentional ignorance of mute Minister Jim Bradley or the evasion of the truth by Director Lisa Feldman, confidence does not run high with what MOE will come up with in the end. 

If the pretty rainbow without the Leprechaun at the end isn't enough for the MOE and its brilliance to figure out, then orange water may be more of a confusing question to answer as it appears in a drainage ditch in the open environment. Maybe we should suggest some possibilities for MOE to consider; (1) the left over dye from bricks finding its way underground and only coming to the surface behind the paint and refinishing shop, or (2) another brilliant solution that the weeds are indeed rusting.   

A lingering question now demands answering by Environment Minister Jim Bradley and the MOE. Director of Investigations and Enforcement Lisa Feldman has provided what is a clear indication that the MOE had breached the Environmental Bill of Rights intentionally.

The issue of the damaged vehicles has been raised to Minister Jim Bradley and to Director Feldman. Once again the February 16th 2011 report by the MOE is crucial to take into account. Bradley's refusal to respond is somewhat bewildering unless the realization of the enormity of the situation is examined.

When the MOE prepared and presented the report of February 2011 they had to present it to the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario. That report was in response to an EBR investigation that the ECO had provided to the MOE. It was an official document of record and therefore binding on all parties unless appealed through proper channels.

Mr. Gord Miller, the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario presents the Annual Report in accordance with Section 58 of the Environmental Bill of Rights 1993 to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. The Honourable Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario accepts the Annual Report and its supplements as an official document of record. Page 213 of the 2010/2011 Annual Report Supplement presented on record by the ECO states the MOE had “advised the site operator to move damaged vehicles away from the property line...” This was information supplied by the MOE in their official report ref#ENV1180AC-2011-2 dated February 16th 2011 on page of the Decision Summary, and a copy provided to me and the Environmental Commissioner's Office.

On several separate attempts at communicating with Minsiter Bradley and Director Feldman clear evidence was provided that the property owner Sam Demita had apparently wilfully ignored this Ministerial Order for over a year. No response has come at all from Minister Bradley and now months later Director Feldman responded on this issue.

Director Feldman wrote: “You have also expressed concerns in your emails about damaged vehicles parked by the fence on the Sun Collision property, a concern that you also raised in correspondence to Minister Bradley in February 2012. In response to those concerns, the Ministry determined that there is no evidence of an offence in regards to this matter, and as such no action will be taken by the Ministry with respect to that issue.” This is in complete contradiction to the February 16th 2011 report and statement by MOE. How is this possible or why?

I had clearly asked both Minister Bradley in February 2012 and Director Feldman whether the MOE in fact instructed the site owner Sam Demita to move the damaged vehicles in 2011 as they stated in their report, or whether the MOE had not and therefore lied in their report. It is impossible to imagine that a business owner can ignore a Ministry Order and do so without consequence. Director Feldman's response, “the Ministry determined that there is no evidence of an offence” is somewhat confusing. Unless it is simply that MOE lied in their February 2011 report and had not at the time told Sun Collision's owner to move the vehicles. The Ministry then lied in their official report that they represented to the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario.

Ministry of the Environment has intentionally deceived the ECO and the EBR process. No other explanation is logically possible here and that is alarming. There have been too many questions regarding the manner in which the MOE conduced their investigation in 2009 of Sun Collision. Now little trust can be had in the current investigation especially when the deceitful actions of Dr. Valerie Jaeger, Niagara Region's most senior public health official, are taken into account. Sam Demita has had the protective blanket provided by City of St. Catharines Mayor Brian McMullan even when clear evidence is available that the filling of the ravine was done without permit.

We have been informed that the Federal Commissioner for Environment and Sustainable Development has decided to join the party. True according to many our Federal counterparts in environment would rather ignore the environment, whether it is rust or brick dye. nevertheless they have seen it worthy enough to investigate. Two Federal Departments (Environment Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada) have been requested by the Federal Commissioner to consider a full investigation. 
There are too many questions unanswered and a quagmire left to traverse in order to reach the truth. What is the EBR worth if the Ministry itself can in fact intentionally breach it?

Mute Minister Bradley may have his back slapping to celebrate 35 years as an MPP and tout The Great Lakes Protection Plan, yet it is nothing more than hypocrisy and lies.

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