So much oil is trying to enter Lake Chipican from a leaking landfill site that city hall wants to train staff for a new job description – oil field roustabout.
Containing the oil migrating beneath Canatara Park is a major headache for Sarnia, which had to extend an underground steel wall and dig more monitoring and recovering wells.
But with bills mounting – another $109,000 was approved in February – city hall is eyeing training its own in-house environmental team to deal with hot spots and take on the oil recovery now done by consultant Golder Associates.
The former Michigan Avenue Landfill was a dumping ground for industrial and municipal waste from the 1920s to the 1960s. The 69-acre site was capped with a metre of soil in 2001 after walls of sheet piling were hammered underground to stop contaminants threatening Lake Chipican.
But the mix of oil and diesel fuel is spreading.
A recovery system built on the lake’s southwest shore in 2011 has five in-ground pumps that remove oil collecting behind the retaining wall. But new oil was found the following year in a wooded area between the lake and Children’s Animal Farm. More extraction wells were dug and the wall extended.
The task of cleaning out the wells was a once-a-month job. Now it’s done three times a week.
“It’s really ramped up over the past three years,” said city engineer Andre Morin. “We’ve had hits in additional wells and it means more work.
In December alone about 5,000 litres of oil was sucked from the ground, enough to fill about 25 bathtubs. Over a year, that’s enough to fill a gasoline tanker truck, and then some.
City council has pulled $54,000 from reserves to pay the extra work done by Golder Associates, caretakers since the landfill closed. Councillors also approved a new pumping system and transfer line at two collection wells, at a cost of $55,000.
The recovered oil is sent for disposal. If an environmental team was approved it could explore ways to reprocess it, possibly as a source of revenue.
“Canatara isn’t the only site we have to keep an eye on,” Morin said. “It’s unfortunate, but it’s the nature of the city we live in.
George Mathewson, The Journal