Deloro Mine Site
The Deloro mine site is situated on the Moira River in Hastings County about eight kilometres east of Marmora and about 45 kilometres north of the City of Belleville where the Moira River flows into Lake Ontario’s Bay of Quinte. The site covers approximately 900 acres.
EBI’s investigation of the site showed high concentrations of arsenic, cadmium, cobalt, copper, cyanide, lead, manganese, molybdenum, nickel and zinc in water. In sediments, concentrations of arsenic, cadmium, cobalt, copper, cyanide, lead, manganese, mercury, nickel and zinc were elevated. One of the discharges into the Moira River measured by EBI contained 16% pure arsenic.
At the time of our investigation, the total arsenic present on site was evaluated to be 100 000 tonnes. 7500 tonnes of calcium arsenite were buried at one location and were only partially covered with crushed radioactive slag. A 1992 technical report for the Bay of Quinte Remedial Action Plan program stated that in regard to arsenic, “The Moira River is the source of 70% of loadings to the Bay. Of this, 40% is attributable to upstream contamination originating from the abandoned mine site at Deloro…” In 1996 alone, over 3270 kilograms of arsenic were discharged into the Moira River from the site. Substantial loadings of the heavy metals, cadmium, copper, nickel and zinc were also discharged into both the Moira River and Young’s Creek Off-site sampling conducted this year by MOE showed contamination with arsenic, cobalt, nickel, silver and other heavy metals.
In November 1980, a report was prepared for MOE by Reid, Crowther & Partners. Entitled A Remedial Clean-up Program For The Deloro Site, it suggested that a staged remedial program could be implemented over a five-year period. Nonetheless, uncontrolled discharges of toxic metals into the Moira River and Young’s Creek, both fish-bearing streams, continued.
Radioactive Contamination at Deloro: Dr. Sharma’s Report
EBI and Sierra Legal Defence Fund (SLDF) consulted Dr. Hari Sharma, Professor Emeritus of Chemistry at University of Waterloo and a Radiation Safety Advisor at the University.
Dr. Sharma visited the Deloro mine site with radiation measurement devices and produced a report. In this report he stated:
“Our radiation dose measurements were confined to publicly accessible areas outside the fenced site perimeter between a dwelling […] (immediately west of the main site gate) and the gate. The radiation dose level was 10 microrem/h (0.01 mrem/h) at 50 feet away from the perimeter fence toward the Lynch dwelling. In the area west of the site gate along the fence, the radiation dose levels ranged from 0.25 to 0.75 mrem/h. The average radiation dose over an area of approximately 200 feet in length and 20 feet in width can be estimated to be 0.5 mrem/h at 1 meter above the ground level. At the ground level, the dose rate was monitored with a Victoreen Model 493 and a 489-110 pancake probe and was found to be about 1-3 mrem/h.”
Dr. Sharma continued:
“Any member of the general public who spends 200 hours by the side of the fence south of the main gate will receive radiation dose equal to or in excess of 1 mSv, the proposed maximum annual exposure limit.”
Further he added:
“it is also important to understand that legal exposure limits for radiation do not constitute a “magic line” that separates absolute safety from absolute hazard. Rather, these legal limits represent a level of risk to health that is unacceptable for the relevant population under virtually any circumstance. In the radiation-regulation field, this fact is recognized by the frequent invocation of the so-called “ALARA” principle: “All exposures should be kept As Low As Reasonably Achievable (‘ALARA’), social and economic factors taken into account.” That principle is often used to force remedial activities that reduce exposures well below legal exposure limits — typically down to one one-hundredth of those limits. I believe that few of the radiation exposures from areas I have surveyed are being kept as low as reasonably achievable.”
“It is my considered opinion that radioactive material that is outside the fenced area, where I measured the radiation field, presents a risk to the general public of deleterious health effects and an impairment to the safety of the general public. Furthermore, ongoing leaching of radium and other radionuclides from the Plant site poses serious environmental problems that have not been addressed. These leachates probably drain into the Moira River basin.”
Radioactive Contamination at Deloro: Additional Measurements
On a separate occasion, EBI investigators detected high radiation levels on the eastern edge of the site, in Young’s Creek valley. The measured gamma radiation field was at or above 1 mrem/hour. The Ontario government had been aware of the presence of radioactive uranium in the tailings pile for at least two decades but only in the 1990s did a consulting firm conduct a study in this area. The Young’s Creek valley was freely accessible to the public and was frequented by deer as well as hunters. A small radiation sign was posted but to recognize it, one had to walk through a highly contaminated waste zone.
A 1987 Report to the Siting Process Task force on Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal produced by the Low Level Radioactive Waste Management Office indicated that the site contained 100,000 cubic meters of radioactive material which has contaminated another 300,000 cubic meters of soil.
The MOE had to be ordered more than 18 times by government health and safety inspectors to protect the workers at the Deloro site from radiation and toxic health hazards.
It is widely believed that there is no such thing as a safe dose of radiation. That we are constantly exposed to naturally-occurring radiation should be an incentive to reduce exposure to other sources of radiation.
The water pollution and radioactive contamination charges brought in 1997 and 1998
In November 1997, EBI’s Janet Fletcher laid eight charges against the Ontario government under the Federal Fisheries Act Section 35(l) and 36(3) and the Ontario Water Resources Act Section 30(l). The charges alleged the continuous discharges of arsenic, cadmium, cobalt, copper, nickel and zinc from the Deloro industrial site into the Moira River and Young’s Creek.
In November 1998, Thomas Adams of EBI, laid a single charge against the Ontario government under the provincial Environmental Protection Act for radioactive contamination of the natural environment west of the Deloro mine site property in the Village of Deloro.
Fletcher and Adams were initially represented by counsel Douglas Chapman of SLDF. SLDF supported some investigation activities behind the case.
The Ontario Attorney General intervened in the cases. Ian Scott, a prominent criminal lawyer in private practice, was appointed to prosecute. Mark Mattson, Executive Director of EBI, and Douglas Chapman assisted Mr. Scott as co-counsel during the trial.
The prosecution case, which required a day and a half, called witnesses associated with EBI: Mark Mattson, Tom Adams, and retired Ministry of Environment (MOE) biologist Dave Dillenbeck.
The defence, led by Kenneth Jull of the firm Beard Winter, presented extensive evidence from government employees and consultants over approximately 40 days of trial.
The trial commenced in December 1999 and final submissions were delivered in April 2001.
The province was acquitted based on its defence that it had exercised due diligence in planning to remediate the site.
After the private charges were laid, the Deloro site perimeter, which includes most of the highly contaminated zone around the industrial site, was fenced to exclude the public. Signage warning of some of the dangers were posted on the perimeter. A health risk assessment study was undertaken. It identified, among other problems, contaminated soil and several local children with elevated urine arsenic levels. A downstream river assessment was conducted that identified highly contaminated sediments. Radioactive waste was removed from the town playground as well as an area of the town near the site’s west entrance frequented by local citizens, including children.
In December 2004, the Ontario Ministry of the Environment released its plan for a clean-up of the Deloro site.