Eco/Log Week July 16/2001

Ontario court rules MOE not guilty of Deloro mine site pollution charges

The Ontario provincial court has found the provincial Ministry of Environment not guilty of pollution charges in connection with the Deloro mine site north of Belleville. In a 46-page ruling, Justice Celynne Dorval concluded that the Ministry had exercised due diligence with regard to its remediation of the site. In her decision, Justice Dorval further noted that the Ministry “had a detailed and planned approach to the remediation of a complex site.”

Charges, under the federal Fisheries Act, of discharging contaminants from the mine site were laid in 1997 by a private citizen, with support from Sierra Legal Defence Fund and the Environmental Bureau of Investigation. The case was later taken over by the provincial Ministry of the Attorney General and the MOE entered a “not guilty” plea.

The MOE assumed control of the 242-hectare site as remediator of last resort in 1979 after the former owner, Erickson Construction, abandoned the contaminated property, citing lack of operating funds. The site, on the Moira River, operated for over 100 years as a centre of mining, refining and manufacturing of gold, silver, cobalt and other materials. These activities left a complex mix of contaminants at the site, including arsenic, cobalt, lead and low-level radioactive waste.

Since taking over the site, the Ministry has spent over $16 million on cleanup work and has reduced arsenic loadings to the Moira River by over 80%. Two major off-site studies have been carried out as well: the Deloro Village Environmental Health Risk Study (1998-99), and the Moira River Study (1999-2001).

The cleanup is currently entering its final phase: technical reports are nearing completion, with a detailed final cleanup plan to be drafted. The Ministry aims to hold public consultations on the draft plan this year, with tendering for construction work targeted for 2002. Cleanup work is expected to begin next year and will take two to three years to complete.

More information on the Deloro mine site cleanup may be viewed on the MOE Web site.