Hamilton International Airport has been polluting the water supply of Welland River and Lake Niapenco for decades. Fish and turtles in these waterways have been found to have unsafe levels of perfluorooctaneslfonic acid (PFOS). Sediment samples show PFOS levels in this area are world record breakers. There are now concerns that PFOS will contaminate drinking water supplies and recreational water areas.
PFOS (perfluorooctaneslfonic acid) from Hamilton Airport are contaminating the Upper Welland River and Lake Niapenco which flow into Lake Ontario. This has been going on for decades.
PFOS is a toxic chemical that was a key component in Scotchgard and is used in fire-fighting foam. The chemical bioaccumulates (builds up) in the body and can cause immunodeficiencies, cancer, and physical development delays.
Hamilton Airport's fire suppression practice pad has been deemed the source of pollution . PFOS have beed used on-site for fire fighting activities.
Environment Hamilton (with Dr. Lynda Lukasik and Dr. Joe Minor) collected independent sediment samples from the edge of Hamilton International Airport's property. Those samples contained the highest ever recorded levels of PFOS in the world at 170 parts per billion.
Environment Canada and the Ontario Ministry of the Environment also collected samples and found PFOs in local wildlife. The contamination levels in fish alarmed Ontario so much that, in April, the province issued new consumption warnings for fish from the Welland River and nearby Lake Niapenco (Binbrook Reservoir).
The consumption restrictions will help protect human health in the short term, but they are not long-term solutions. Like any beach posting or boil water order, consumption advisories are cries for help. They are signals that the natural environment is threatened, that something is amiss. The government's long-term efforts must now be to stop the contaminants from entering the environment and then restore lost or polluted habitat.
The Hamilton Airport PFO story is valuable lesson for each of us. It reminds us that every consumption restriction on a fish, every posted beach, every boil water advisory we see is also a call to action. Advisories are issued because pollution has happened. Science sleuths like staff and volunteers with Environment Hamilton and Environment Canada found the problem. They reported it. The next step is to make the advisories go away, and the only way to do that safely is to stop the pollution at its source and get on with remediation.
It took effort from individuals like those who work with Environment Hamilton to make the Hamilton Airport PFO problem a priority. In all likelihood, it will take more of their efforts to keep PFO pollution a priority, until it is finally stopped. We encourage you to follow their progress.