Toxic spill raises questions about radioactive waste

For more than a month, as members of the Algonquin First Nation harvested plentiful pike, walleye and pike from the Ottawa River, they had no idea that toxic sewage might also be flowing into the water.

A month ago, Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL), the company that operates the Chalk River nuclear research facility, notified Kebaowek First Nation that there was a problem with toxic effluent, but they were assured it was being fixed, Chief Lance Haymond said. . . At first, Haymond didn’t see it as a problem, because Kebaowek has a wastewater treatment facility.

“We didn’t even raise a red flag that what was happening was serious,” he said. Canadian National Observer.

So, CBC News called about their investigation which revealed that the effluent had an “acute lethality failure,” meaning the wastewater was toxic to fish. Suddenly, Haymond realized that the effluent could be affecting the reproduction cycle of local fish, threatening not only this year’s reproduction but also that of the future.

He was concerned because Algonquin fish harvesters had already been on the river for weeks and sport fishermen were also ready to enter the waterways to catch their catch, he said.

“We’re out there collecting fish, bringing it home, eating it and feeding it to their families, so no one knows what’s going on,” Haymond said, pointing to the elders and children who eat the catch from Kebaowek and other Algonquian First Nations. in the region.

An investigation is currently underway to identify the source of the toxic conditions within the wastewater facility. Detergents or cleaning solutions used in laboratories are a possible cause, CNL said. Canadian National Observer in a sentence.

“The discharge from the wastewater treatment facility does not threaten the environment or the public,” CNL’s statement continued, while confirming that the non-compliance brought forward by Environmental and Climate Change Canada is not associated with radioactive contaminants.

“What is absolutely clear is that there is still too much secrecy about what is happening,” Chief Lance Haymond said of the nuclear facility.

Canadian National Observer He contacted Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to ask if it is safe to consume fish in the river. Canadian National Observer Will update the article to reflect comments from the federal government.

Environment and Climate Change Canada declined to comment because the department lacks the expertise to speak on the issue, a spokesperson said.

The wastewater incident has left Haymond “deeply concerned” as CNL will manage low-level nuclear waste in situ for hundreds of years now that its near-surface disposal facility is approved.

“What is absolutely clear is that there is still too much secrecy about what is happening,” Haymond said.

Haymond calls for an Algonquin-led tracking system with participation from the Kebaowek First Nation. Pikwakanagan’s long-term relationship agreement included monitoring, but now Kebaowek wants to be included in that work too.

In January, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission gave the green light to a nuclear waste storage facility in Chalk River, Ontario, after a years-long battle waged by concerned citizens, environmentalists and First Nations. The only Algonquin First Nation on the Ontario side, where Chalk River sits, has a relationship agreement with CNL.

Kebaowek responded by launching a court challenge questioning whether nuclear regulators adequately considered the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) before the Chalk River waste disposal facility was approved.

Last week, the Kebaowek First Nation sent letters to the International Atomic Energy Agency requesting an international review of the proposed project and other nuclear research facility proposals.

The near-surface disposal facility will see up to one million cubic meters of radioactive waste buried in a shallow mound at Chalk River Laboratories (CRL), about 190 kilometers northwest of Ottawa. Proponents of the project argue that Canada must find a long-term solution to storing low-level nuclear waste, some of which is currently poorly managed.

—With files from Natasha Bulowski

Matteo Cimellaro / Canada’s National Observer / Local Journalism Initiative

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