Province Suggests Township Assume Environmental Monitoring Responsibility at the Former Jail Property

Photo Karen Graham.
The future of this 100+ acre property in the township remains unclear, but water quality concerns appear to be easing.

The provincial Correctional Centre formerly located at 706 County Rd. 10 in Millbrook was closed in 2003 and demolished in 2015.  Prior to its demolition, Infrastructure Ontario (IO) conducted a series of tests to identify any potential contamination through a Ministry of Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) regulatory process.  In September 2015, the township received a report summarizing the results of those tests which indicated the presence of PCE, an industrial solvent degreaser, resulting from previous activities at the Correctional Centre.  PCE is a chlorinated, volatile, organic compound that is slightly water soluble, and used as a solvent for removing organic material including oil and grease.  Its toxicity is well documented, and because the substance is more dense than water, it sinks, making it difficult to locate.  Independent experts confirmed that the contamination identified in these studies contained no known threat to human health, however the presence of the contaminant prompted further drilling and sampling tests by the MOECC to assess the extent the contamination in the groundwater and to identify its source.

There are municipal drinking water aquifers at this location, raising concerns about the potential contamination of local water supplies.  To manage this potential risk, groundwater monitoring began and has continued under the oversight of IO who manages the property on behalf of the province.  Council has received regular reports regarding the results of these tests, which over time have indicated that concentrations of PCE have been declining steadily.

The most recent update was provided last month.  The province hired a new environmental consultant in 2020.  According to this staff report, IO’s goal is to reduce their liability and accumulate information about the risks associated with the site for a future owner.  The site has been deemed surplus for the province, and until it is sold, environmental monitoring will continue.

The MECP has indicated that they would like the Township to assume responsibility for this testing. Staff suggests this is not a responsibility the municipality should take on, indicating they should not take on the responsibility for a problem they did not create. They recommend that the province retain testing and oversight for the property until a record of site condition (RSC) for the site has been filed and audited before the site is offered for sale.  Staff also recommended that the municipality seek legal advice to evaluate options and next steps for Council to consider with regards to future testing of the Municipal Wells and related liability for treatment should future testing indicate the presence of contaminants in the raw water supply.

Since the property was deemed surplus, it has been winding through the extensive process of circulating through a series of stages where it is offered to different groups in priority, beginning with other provincial ministries and agencies.  None have expressed interest, so the property moves into the next stage where it is offered at fair value, to other levels of government, including the local municipality, not-for-profit organizations, eligible Indigenous groups and other entities in the public sector.   The municipality has already expressed a formal interest in the property, and has asked to be notified when it becomes eligible to pursue the potential acquisition of the property.  KG

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