CBC Radio April 18/2001

Polluting charges against environment ministry: trial ends    by J.C. Kenny, reporter

OTTAWA – Lawyers have wrapped up a two-year trial focused on a contaminated mine site in a small community north of Belleville, Ont.

In 1998, an environmental group from Kingston laid a number of pollution charges against Ontario’s environment ministry.

The site in question is a now-defunct gold mine in Deloro, is a tiny village on the shores of the Moira River. The Moira empties into the Bay of Quinte, which in turn flows into Lake Ontario.

The mining process required the use of arsenic. The mining and smelting operation continued until the 1960s.

In 1979, due to pollution problems, Ontario’s environment ministry took over responsibility for the site.

The Environmental Bureau of Investigation says the ministry had been allowing arsenic and radioactive material from the mine to seep into the environment, including the Moira River, for years.

The ensuing trial has taken nearly two years to complete. The bureau’s Janet Fletcher says she’s hopeful the judge in the case will make the the right decision.

“I believe, in the end, it’s going to be a matter of the judge determining whether the ministry is, in fact, above the laws that they’re supposed to enforce, or whether they are responsible under the law,” says Fletcher.

The environment ministry has spent millions cleaning up the site, and claims to have reduced the arsenic load on the Moira River by 80%.

The ministry’s lawyer says he won’t comment on the case, until the judge brings down her decision on June 12.

Audio clip

Listen to J.C. Kenny’s interview with EBI co-founder Janet Fletcher. Need RealPlayer?