Radioactive leaks in Lake Ontario raise concerns
Tuesday, August 28, 2001
Reuters News Service, Toronto, Canada by Julie Remy
A nuclear waste facility managed by Cameco Corp., the world's biggest supplier of uranium, has been leaking continuously over the past two decades, environmental groups said in a report published yesterday.
The report said Cameco has been releasing toxic substances such as arsenic and uranium in the Lake Ontario. A company spokesman, however, said it was meeting all regulatory requirements.
"For the responsibilities that we have, Cameco has met all of the regulatory requirements for the affective and safe operation of the site," said Jamie McIntyre, spokesman for Cameco.
But Mark Mattson, author of the report from Lake Keepers Ontario, an independent environmental watchdog, said the storage site at Port Granby, located about 100 km (62 miles) east of Toronto, is not in compliance with environmental laws although it is licensed by the federal government.
"Liquid radioactive wastes are constantly entering the lake (...) in the form of intentionally discharged treated effluent and as fugitive seeps," he wrote.
According to the report, two series of tests conducted last year showed that 63 percent and 97 percent of the water fleas placed in the treated discharge died. Water fleas are commonly used by Environment Canada to determine toxicity, and if over 50 percent of the organisms die, the sample is considered "acutely toxic," Mattson said.
In a letter sent to Environment Canada, he urged the authorities to conduct a full investigation into potential breaches of the federal Fisheries Act and Migratory Birds Act, which prohibit the massive release of pollutants, because no other legislation is available to protect humans.
"Unfortunately in Canada my experience has been that the laws that protect wildlife and fish are stronger in some cases than the ones that protect people," he told Reuters.
The plant was closed in 1988 after 33 years of operation by the Crown Corporation Eldorado Nuclear Ltd. and has been managed by Saskatoon-based Cameco since then.
Cameco's McIntyre said the company was aware of problems at the site but that it was not aware of any leaks reported by Lake Ontario Keepers. He said Cameco has committed C$25 million in a C$230 million cleanup plan agreed this spring by the federal government and three Ontario municipalities.