August 8, 2005

Ottawa pledges $153 million to clean up, assess contaminated sites on federal inventory

The federal government is investing $153 million to clean up 97 priority sites across Canada for which it is responsible and to conduct assessments for a further estimated 500 sites. This includes $138.7 million for the remediation activities, plus $14.3 million for the site assessments, which will determine the next steps and the scientific support necessary.

The funding is part of a long-term commitment of $3.5 billion made by Ottawa last year for remediation of contaminated sites under federal responsibility. Environment Minister St√ąphane Dion made the announcement last week in Yellowknife, NWT at the site of the former Giant Mine.

This property is among the higher-risk sites in the Canadian North designated under the Action Plan for Federal Contaminated Sites. Earlier this year, the federal and territorial governments signed a ten-year co-operation agreement which will lead to the development of a remediation plan and implementation of an approved plan (ELW March 21, 2005).

Yellowknife's Giant Mine, which began operations in 1948, was one of Canada's earliest and richest gold mines, producing more than seven million ounces of gold. The production process also yielded arsenic trioxide dust-some 237,000 tonnes, now being stored underground at the site. The mine site came under federal ownership in 1999 when then-owner Royal Oak Mines went into receivership.

Until a long-term cleanup plan is developed, Giant Mine is currently under care and maintenance. Activities at the site this year will involve additional site investigations, assessments and surface remediation activities.

The 2005-06 allocation is being directed to individual departments and agencies as follows:

Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, $77,195,976 for 30 sites;

Department of National Defence, $41,911,400 for 17 sites;

Transport Canada, $12,697,154 for four sites;

Environment Canada, $2,080,000 for one site (the Pacific Environment Centre in Vancouver);

Health Canada, $1,745,600 for four sites;

Parks Canada Agency, $967,400 for two sites;

Fisheries and Oceans Canada, $959,840 for 36 sites;

Correctional Services Canada, $580,000 for two sites; and

Canada Border Services Agency, $546,240 for one site (the Pleasant Camp land border office in northwest BC).

Among the priority federal sites, it is interesting to note that decontamination work has been completed for Harvey Barracks (Department of National Defence). The majority-83-of the 97 sites being focused on during 2005-06 are the responsibility of three departments: Fisheries and Oceans (36), Indian and Northern Affairs (30) and National Defence (17). Transport Canada and Health Canada are each responsible for four sites, Parks Canada and Correctional Services Canada for two each, and Environment Canada and Canada Border Services Agency for one each.

In terms of location, more than one-third-38-of the sites are in BC, followed by 17 in Nunavut, nine in the Northwest Territories, eight in Manitoba, six each in Ontario and Quebec, four in the Yukon, three in Newfoundland, two each in Nova Scotia and Alberta and one each in New Brunswick and Alberta.

There are currently about 4,000 sites on the federal Contaminated Sites Inventory. These sites may be located on lands owned or leased by the federal government, or on non-federal lands where the federal government has accepted full responsibility for the contamination. Examples include abandoned mines, sites used to store fuel, airports, government laboratories, harbours, landfills, lighthouse stations, military bases and training facilities, and reserve lands.

The full inventory may be viewed on-line at www.tbs-sct.gc.ca/dfrp-rbif/cs-sc/. Enquiries concerning a specific site should be directed to the federal department responsible.

The Contaminated Sites Action Plan was created in 2003 to help federal departments and agencies manage risks associated with contaminated sites for which the federal government is responsible, especially those that pose the greatest risk to the environment and human health. It supports Project Green, the government's comprehensive environmental vision aimed at a sustainable environment and a more competitive economy. Benefits from the Action Plan also contribute to other government-wide priorities:

-New deal for Cities and Communities: Many communities will benefit from the remediation of federal brownfields.

-Aboriginal advancement: Some projects will include Aboriginal training and employment opportunities, and Aboriginal peoples are already involved in cleanup activities at a number of federal contaminated sites.

-Northern Strategy / International Polar Year: Accelerated remediation of contaminated sites is a cornerstone of the Northern Strategy, and efforts will contribute to the success of the International Polar Year (2007).

-Innovative technologies: Federal departments will report on the results of innovative technologies applied to federal contaminated sites.

The federal government has put mechanisms in place to prevent new sites from becoming contaminated by substances that might pose a risk to the environment and human health. As part of a long-term strategy to be developed for ensuring the timely, effective and well co-ordinated cleanup the remediation of contaminated sites, the government will also make an annual progress report to the public.

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