Is someone drilling for oil on the airpark property or is there more soil contaminent testing being done and if so – why?

November 20, 2013

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON.  Just because lawyers have managed to wrap up the Airpark differences in appeals to a higher court doesn’t mean nothing is happening up there on that 100 + piece of property that has a $4.5 million mortgage on it.  Those payments have to be made month after month and given that there are no more truckloads of revenue producing landfill being dumped on what Vanessa Warren, founder of the Rural Burlington Greenbelt Coalition once described as a “toxic dump”one has to wonder how the bills are being paid.

Layout of the Airpark lands.  This is an older photograph that doesn’t clearly show the runway that runs diagonally from  lower right to upper left.

The landfill dumping was always seen as illegal by the north Burlington residents.  They wish the city had listened to them earlier.  When the city did begin listening – and it was hard to ignore Vanessa Warren and her delegations – things moved along rather briskly and the dumping stopped.

The city got itself into Court and a Judge declared that the Burlington site plan bylaw was valid and had to be adhered to which was seen as a win. The residents thought they saw some light at the end of the tunnel they have been in for the last five years.

Almost everyone expected there to be an appeal – and sure enough, the Airpark filed their appeal within 36 hours of the decision being handed down.  With the differences now mired in the legal process, which tends to move at a glacial pace, what happens on the site while the lawyers do their paper work?

At least one lawyer involved in this is fighting to retain his professional chops as a leading expert in federal airport regulations.  If the city’s arguments hold the lecturing and consulting work could well dry up and the client base will send him packing the way city council did when he first delegated there.

There is still the contaminant issue to be dealt with.  When the July 11th report from Terrapex, a respected environmental consulting and engineering firm hired by the City, submitted their report, they said 60% of the soil sample reports provided to them posed a serious threat to the environment and to the neighboring landowners who rely entirely on well water.  

MOE did not agree with the Terrapex document and said the samples analyzed met MOE standards.  Because there is not an adequate record of just where that landfill came from and what’s in it – the Ontario Ministry of the Environment (MOE) asked that some testing of the soils and water that runs off the Airpark site be done.

Back in August, the MOE informed the City that the Airpark had agreed to co-operate with them and test for off-site adverse effects (leaching) into groundwater of any contaminants that might be present within the fill dumped on their lands – and that this would be done by installing test wells around the outer perimeter of the filled locations.  Those wells were eventually drilled in late September by Airpark contractors.  

The September MOE testing was done at the periphery of the airpark  but the city is not being allowed to see the results.  MOE told the city to use a Freedom of Information request to get the data.  The city did that and we are told the request was denied. 

Something doesn’t smell right here. 

These people are not drilling for oil – it is believed they have sunk a drill to test the make up of the landfill dumped on the property in the last 18 months.

On Tuesday morning around 9 am., a large, unmarked white cargo truck rolled into the center of the south-west portion of the Airpark land, to the west of its main runway.  Some heavy equipment was unloaded and the drilling of a test well began.  One observer wondered why a professional environmental testing company wouldn’t have its name or logo on the truck.  The area being tested has landfill dumped by King Paving who did much of the work on that portion of the Airpark.

Could it be that the MOE periphery testing raised some questions and that brought about the need to test in the centre of the airpark?

No markings on the truck. Who does it belong to?

All the key players in the Airpark dispute: On the left standing city lawyer Blake Hurley, in front of him lawyer Ian Blue hired to argue the city’s case in Court.  Scott Stewart, city general manager leaning forward and talking to Roger Goulet, Ken Woodruff and Monte Dennison. In the row behind Rural Burlington Greenbelt Coalition founder Vanessa

No one knows yet who asked for the testing, why it is being done and who is paying for it.  With no markings on the vehicles that rolled out onto the property we don’t even know who is doing the testing.

There is a larger question that the city of Burlington and the Region have to think through and that is: what should happen to the Airpark?  If the city wins the appeal (expect a win at the Appeal level to be taken to the Supreme Court of Canada – that’s how important this issue is) and the Airpark finds that it has to adhere to at least some municipal oversight – what does the city want to see done in that part of the municipality.

Up until now Airpark president Vince Rossi has trampled all over senior city staff.  Not a smart move on Rossi’s part.  The city now needs to begin thinking what it requires in the way of site alteration on that land.  It is currently a small airport and it can remain that way for as long as Rossi can afford to pay the bills.  As a small sleepy airport it barely paid for itself.  When Rossi bought the place he had big plans for that land.  He tried putting up a communications tower, making the place a giant location for a used car auction site and then worked at closing a deal to have the place used as a helicopter pilot training school for the Chinese government.  So far he hasn’t managed to make any of the ideas actually work – such is the world of entrepreneurship.  It is not easy and for every success there are thousands of failures.

Vince Rossi, president of Burlington Executive Airpark Inc., at a meeting with members of the Rural Burlington Greenbelt Coalition that took place in a barn a couple of hundred yards from the end of his largest runway.

There was a time when a business person could go it alone and swashbuckle  their way through almost anything – those days are gone, now you collaborate and work within a system that can be slow and sluggish.

This evening, Councillors Taylor and Lancaster will be meeting with north Burlington residents at a public meeting  where there might be an opportunity to get a sense of what they think should happen with the Airport lands.

Rossi has a pilot’s license and clearly has an affinity for aviation.  Burlington badly needs entrepreneurs who are prepared to take risks but it needs people who will work with the city to set out and achieve a common goal.  Rossi may not have the temperament to work with people in a collaborative manner.  One of the things that every business person knows, or will eventually learn the hard way, is that you cannot beat city hall.  And in Burlington city hall cannot be bought.


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2 comments to Is someone drilling for oil on the airpark property or is there more soil contaminent testing being done and if so – why?

  • Roger Goulet

    Where there is no trust, there is scrutiny and many questions.
    The model of a good corporate citizen is community involvement and ongoing honest communications. It is not a Public Relation exercise.
    The “right to operate” is earned from the community it operates in, every day.
    Building trust is hard work, and require genuine engagement and sharing with the community and the governmental agencies.

  • Monte

    Given the recent history of the Airpark, the results of actions being done by unknown contractors cannot, and should not be trusted. If there were nothing to hide, actions would not have to be performed in secret.
    The eyes of the area, all of Ontario and other parts of Canada, are watching events at the Airpark under close scrutiny brought on by the owners themselves.
    It is time that all levels of Government be involved with this airpark so that truthful information can be forthcoming.
    I have never witnessed such a poorly run business as this Airpark in my entire life.