YORKTON - A pair of property owners have concerns a neighbouring fertilizer handling facility has contaminated their land and the subsoil groundwater.
Monday they took those concerns to Yorkton Council where Ward Brown made a presentation outlining their concerns.
“We are not experts,” offered Brown, who added he was at Council “to speak on behalf of the property owners: Donna Brown and L. & V. Enterprises Ltd.
“The property owners want to share what has been learned and communicate concerns about contamination east of the City of Yorkton.”
The fertilizer plant has been on the location for years.
“A fertilizer plant has been in operation on the Imperial Oil site in excess of 18 years – currently operated by Nutrien,” said Brown.
The properties in questions are on the east side of the city along Highway #10, in the neighbouring Rural Municipality of Wallace.
In addition, the Yorkton Creek is approximately 175 m from the Imperial Oil site.
Brown noted, “this means the maximum allowable levels of chemicals are lower because of aquatic life.”
Also, drinking water wells are within a 500 m radius of the Imperial Oil site, said Brown.
Brown acknowledged in the past monitoring was carried out.
“The Imperial Oil site management plan for more than 14 years included taking soil and groundwater samples twice a year on the Imperial Oil site and the Donna Brown and L. & V. Enterprises Ltd. properties until they stopped in 2019,” he said.
The chemicals measured include ammonia, calcium, chloride, magnesium, nitrate, nitrite, sodium, sulphate, total dissolved solids.
Then in 2016 a problem arose.
In 2016 L. & V. Enterprises Ltd., which had clear title to its property, went to a financial institution to obtain financing and were asked for an environmental study on the L. & V. property, said Brown.
“L. & V. received a Phase II report from Imperial Oil and forwarded it to the financial institution – they called shortly thereafter to say that the L. & V. property is contaminated and could not be used for security,” he said.
As background Brown explained, “Groundwater is water found underground in cracks and spaces in soil, sand, and rock. It is stored and moves slowly through aquifers. Groundwater supplies drinking water and recharges lakes, rivers and wetlands.
“Yorkton is reliant on groundwater for its water supply for drinking water and industry. Protecting the water supply supports economic development in the region.”
Brown said contamination of groundwater is a serious concern.
“Once groundwater is contaminated it can be very expensive or impossible to clean up. Once an aquifer is contaminated it can be unusable for decades,” he said.
In terms of groundwater quality Brown asked that the city ask for monitoring of the properties to once again be undertaken on a regular basis.
Mayor Mitch Hippsley assured that well water testing is carried out regularly.
Brown countered that is not sufficient, because it’s too late if a contaminant is already a well source. There needs to be testing of soil on the properties to see if they are moving toward groundwater sources.
“You’ll be hearing from us in the future,” assured the Mayor.
“Historical data shows contamination levels higher at or near the fertilizer site, and levels gradually decreasing toward the creek. The groundwater flows from west to east toward the creek,” said Brown. “. . . The 2019 groundwater samples show elevated levels of contaminants on the Imperial Oil property, and the Donna Brown and L. & V. properties – including from sample locations very close to the Yorkton Creek.
“The Ministry of Environment, Government of Saskatchewan wants to close the file, and is no longer requiring monitoring.”
Brown added, there have been no groundwater samples taken on the Donna Brown and L. & V. properties since October 2019.
At this point Donna Brown and L. & V. Enterprises Ltd. launched a lawsuit against Imperial Oil in 2018.