SCUGOG: The Township of Scugog has launched a $105 million lawsuit against GFL Environmental Inc. and its principals and consultants for damages the township alleges occurred because of illegal dumping at the Greenbank Airport site.
The lawsuit, a statement of defence and counterclaim after Greenbank Airways filed a $10 million lawsuit against the township last year, was filed by the Township in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice on Friday, March 3rd.
Defendants listed in the counterclaim include: GFL Environmental, the company’s CEO Patrick Dovigi, airport owner Robert Munshaw, 2307880 Ontario Inc., John Packer, D.L. Services as well as two of its employees, Douglas LeBlanc and Kevin McClintock.
Mayor Tom Rowett explained why the Township has decided to file this large of a countersuit.
“We engaged with experts in the field, environmental consultants, engineers as well as legal to determine what costs we were looking at for a full remediation and that’s the sizable amount that it is to fully remediate it,” he said. “We had asked for remediation of those specific boreholes that were done and the sites and we came up with a remediation plan and there was no movement on it. We were then presented with the lawsuit that they had moved on and we had felt that it was important that we file the countersuit for everything that we feel is a cost liability to the township for dealing with the remediation of that site.”
CAO Paul Allore also explained, in a press release, the Township’s thought process behind the countersuit.
“The Township of Scugog has been left high and dry to deal with this situation,” he said “Considerable funds have been expended to retain environmental engineers, soil specialists and legal expertise over the past year.”
Soil above Table 2 contamination standards was found at the site in 2015 after Golder Associates conducted borehole tests.
However, Mr. LeBlanc said the Township had been informed about where the exceedances were before Golder conducted the tests.
“We told the town at all times where the contamination was. We were very transparent. It was published on a website, it was brought up at steering committees and we told them where it was. We never hid anything. When Golder went to sample, they knew exactly where to look and exactly where to sample because we had already told them where it was.”
The Township estimates that it would cost $100 million for the removal of the contaminated soil and prohibited materials and the restoration of the site. Among the other damages listed in the counterclaim include $2.6 million for interim environmental protection measures such as stormwater and groundwater management, $1 million for engineering, consulting and testing fees, $500,000 for legal fees and $374, 286 in unpaid fees.
The Township’s lawyer Charles Loopstra explained to The Standard that the delay in the filing of the countersuit was because the Township wanted to first address the jurisdictional court challenge that claimed that Scugog’s site alteration bylaw does not apply to a federally-regulated aerodrome.
Mr. Loopstra also said the Township “disputes the legitimacy of the proposed airport development.”
Mr. Munshaw questioned the intent of the lawsuit.
“Last year, Greenbank Airport filed a lawsuit against the Township of Scugog because the Township was not allowing the continued importation of fill to complete its airport renovations. Late last week, the township issued a press release on a countersuit they filed in March of this year which presumes all of the fill at the airport needs to be removed, which we do not believe to be necessary,” he said.
He also said that there “is no evidence that there has been any impact to groundwater from the activities on the site.”
“We believe it is an inflammatory amount and an overstated case,” Mr. Munshaw said.
Mr. LeBlanc alleged that Reach Industrial Park Rd. in Port Perry is much more contaminated than the Greenbank Airport site.
“There’s a million times more contaminants and different contaminants there than there is at Greenbank [airport site] but you don’t see the political outcry because it is not a political thing. This whole site is all about politics right now. You had four councillors and a mayor that ran on closing [the Greenbank Airport],” he said.
Mr. LeBlanc also opined that the exceedances on the site are minor. However, Mayor Rowett stated that any exceedance, big or small, needs to be dealt with.
“It doesn’t matter what people’s point of view of the exceedances are, whether it is a small exceedance or a large exceedance, the fact is that there’s exceedances over Table 2 and the agreement was Table 2. So as far as the contract is concerned, there should not have been any exceedances that wouldn’t be remediated.”