Questions and answers about drums on construction site

updated July 9, 2015

Since September, 2014 a total of 45 170-litre (45-gallon) drums have been removed from a construction site near the intersection of Wellington Street and the Hanlon Expressway:

All materials are removed from the site for proper disposal. The City’s consultant, MMM Consulting, has confirmed the Remediation Action Plan is complete, and construction of the Paisley-Clythe watermain has resumed. Construction updates will be posted at

Soil conditions on the site

Soil quality in the area where the drums were found is the same as it was before construction started, and similar to conditions in other parts of the construction zone.

The City is aware of historic landfill and industrial activity in the area. The City will continue monitoring the area as part of its ongoing management of local brownfields and historic landfill and dump sites.

Guelph’s drinking water

Guelph’s drinking water is safe.

Pre-construction testing did not indicate widespread contamination, nor give any indication that buried drums with chemicals were present and/or leaking.

Continued monitoring ensures that water delivered to homes and businesses is safe to drink and use.

Unanticipated construction and cleanup costs

Phase One of the Paisley-Clythe Feedermain/York Trunk Sewer is valued at $9.9 million. Given the size and complexity of the project, the City set aside an additional $1.4 million to cover unanticipated costs. A portion of these contingency funds will be used to cover $ 693,000 associated with construction and cleanup in the area where the drums were found.

  • $195,000 to MMM Consulting environmental and construction consulting, site examination, soil analysis and action plan
  • $301,000 to MGI Construction for specialized cleanup activities in area where drums were found
  • $197,000 to Drexler Construction for changes to planned construction, and installing liner and completing watermain in area where drums were found

The estimated total cost of the three-phase project is $30 million, and is funded using development chargeswater and wastewater revenue.

About discovering the drums in September

Before excavation, the City conducted a geotechnical investigation and dug several boreholes and collected several soil and groundwater samples along the corridor; despite these precautions the drums were not detected.

On September 2 and 3, 2014 eight drums of chemicals were found on a construction site near the Wellington/Hanlon interchange. The City contained the liquid and affected soil immediately and notified the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC).

The City followed emergency response protocols and reported the matter to the authorities. The City contained the liquid and affected soil as directed by the MOECC.

First responders recommended that people remain indoors. No further action was required by residents, and no further instructions were given.

The City used clean soil to back fill the area. The liquid was transported from the site for disposal on September 5 and affected soil was transported for disposal on September 9 and 10.

The City identified the contents of the drums on September 8, 2014.

The drums contained a mixture of common substances used in fuels, as solvents, or in manufacturing such as benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, xylene and styrene.

Health-related questions

Did people experience any symptoms when the leak occurred?

When the drums were discovered, we heard from residents and City staff that there were strong odours and some people reported irritation of the eyes or throat and headaches.

Some of the materials from the drums can evaporate easily and have a strong odour. For example, some are present in gasoline and others are used in household products like mothballs and as solvents for cleaning purposes.

Testing indicated that air concentrations near the excavation site were relatively low and decreased between September 4 and 6, likely due to actions taken to contain the spilled material.

Given the relatively low concentrations found in the air testing and the relatively short period of time when exposure occurred, no long-term effects on health are expected.

Who can I call if I have questions about health effects related to this event?

Residents with questions or concerns about health can call Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health at 1-800-265-7293 extension 4753.

Why did some workers wear respirators or protective equipment?

Workers may come into direct or close contact with unknown substances during cleanup activities. For these reasons, they have a much higher potential for exposure than residents. Use of protective equipment such as respirators and appropriate training help to ensure exposure is minimized while the affected soil and drums are removed.

Contact Wellington Dufferin Guelph Public Health

Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health
1-800-265-7293 extension 4753