Assiginack complaining to Ontario Ombudsmen Hydro One transformer spill/cleanup unreported to the municipality

Fire rages at a Meredith Street Hydro One distribution site. The conflageration cut power to over 2,500 residents for over 15 hours on Sunday. photo by Dave Ham

ASSIGINACK—Following the January 14 fire that took out the Manitowaning Hydro One distribution centre and left much of Manitoulin in the cold for almost the entire day, contract crews were on-site for days following the event when they performed cleanup on the site—without contacting the municipality about the nature and amount of environmental damage. Being left out in the cold, once again, has caused the municipality to lodge a formal complaint with the Ontario Ombudsman.

During the February 6 meeting of Assiginack council, a resolution was passed to authorize staff to lodge the complaint, considering the municipality was never once contacted by Hydro One following the fire to keep to keep Assiginack informed as to why the cleanup was taking place.

“They need to be wakened up,” said Councillor Hugh Moggy.

According to the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change’s Steven Moggy, “the mobile transformer contained 4,136 litres of mineral insulating oil. “The mineral insulating oil located within the mobile transformer unit did not contain any PCBs,” said Mr. Moggy in response to an Expositor inquiry. Approximately 2,696 litres were burned and or spilled. Vacuum trucks were able to remove the remaining product from the site, including 1,135 litres from the transformer and 305 litres from the ground.”

Mr. Moggy added that Hydro One removed approximately 14,000 kg of mostly solids (eg. soil and other materials) from the site.

“The clean-up crew installed wells to recover and intercept any contaminated water at the site,” Mr. Moggy continued. “They also brought in holding tanks for any oily water that might be caught in the recovery wells.”

“The water will be tested for Petroleum Hydro Carbons (PHCs) and Total Suspended Solids before it is released,” he added. “If any water has a visible sheen on it or testing indicates contamination, the water will be treated as a liquid industrial waste and sent via a certified waste hauler to a licenced facility.”

Hydro One’s Sr. Media Relations Advisor Tiz Baccega Rosa told The Expositor that remediation activities and monitoring of the site will continue until impacts are addressed appropriately, “likely extending into the spring of 2018.”

Ms. Baccega Rosa noted that Hydro One is also working with the adjacent property owner and the Township of Assiginack, something Assiginack CAO Alton Hobbs says is false.

“Our concern is twofold,” Mr. Hobbs said of the decision to contact the Ombudsman. “We know that there was a lot of environmental damage on the site and we weren’t made aware of the what, why or the prognosis.” Mr. Hobbs said that, secondly, the municipality finds it “mind boggling” that for a company that prides itself in being a ‘community partner’ they didn’t bother to contact Assiginack, or neighbouring Tehkummah or Wiikwemkoong, for that matter.