Hastings Star July 7/2001

Ministry of Environment not guilty in Deloro trial

OTTAWA- The Ontario Provincial Court found the Ministry of Environment not guilty of pollution charges related to the Deloro Mine Site.

In a 46 page ruling on the case, Justice Celynne Dorval said, “I have considered all factors relevant to diligence and conclude that the defendant has indeed established on a balance of probabilities that it was duly diligent.” Justice Dorval added that the ministry “had a detailed and planned approach to the remediation of a complex site.”

The charges, alleging a discharge of contaminants from the Deloro Mine site, were laid under the Federal Fisheries Act and the Ontario Water Resources Act in November 1997 by a private citizen. The case, supported by Sierra Legal Defence Fund and the Environmental Bureau of Investigation, was later taken over by the Ministry of the Attorney General. The Ministry of Environment pled “not guilty” to the charges.

The ministry took over the 242 hectare contaminated site as remediator of last resort in 1979 after the private owners abandoned the site. One hundred years of mining, refining and manufacturing operations left the site contaminated with a complex blend of contamination, including arsenic, cobalt, lead and low lever radioactive waste.

Since taking over the site, the ministry has invested more than $16 million in the cleanup project, reducing the amount of arsenic coming off the site by more than 80 per cent. The ministry is in the final phase of cleanup that will control and securely contain all types of contamination at the site, from arsenic to radioactivity. Consultation on the final cleanup plan is targeted to begin this year.

For more information visit http://www.ene.gov.on.ca or contact Mark Rabbior, Ministry of the Environment 416-314-6084.

Editor’s note: A class action suit on behalf of all Deloro residents is still being considered.

Background on the Deloro Mine site cleanup project

In 1979, the Ministry of the Environment assume responsibility for the cleanup of the abandoned Deloro Mine Site – a 242 hectare parcel of property that was the site of mining, refining and manufacturing activities for over 100 years. The ministry has made significant progress since taking over the site, achieving an 80 per cent reduction in the amount of arsenic going into the Moira River,. In addition to the on-site cleanup, the ministry has completed two significant off-site assessments: the Deloro Village Environmental Health Risk Study, and the Moira River Study. To date, more than $16 million has been spent on this project. The government of Ontario is committed to completing the mine site cleanup, and estimates another $18 million will be spent to achieve this.

Mine Site CleanupOrdering the company and taking control: 1978-1979. Ministry of the Environment takes control of the mine site in 1979 when the ate owners fail to comply with Environmental Protection Act cleanup orders and declares a lack of sufficient funds. Controlling arsenic loadings to the Moira River: 1979-1983 Ministry takes action to deal with immediate issue of arsenic by engineering and constructing a collection, storage and treatment system that removes arsenic and other heavy metals that are leaching from the site.

Demolishing contaminated buildings: 1983-86 Contaminated industrial buildings are demolished to remove other significant sources of arsenic.

Covering red mud tailings: 1986-87 Eight hectares of red mud tailings (arsenic contaminated by-product from smelting process) are covered with 76,000 tonnes of crushed limestone to reduce dust, stabilize the material and reduce leaching of arsenic and heavy metals.

Creating the Strategy for Final Cleanup: 1989-1992Ministry finalizes a multi phase rehabilitation strategy outlining the steps necessary to complete the site cleanup. Rehabilitation Strategy identifies:

  • Areas to be remediated -Mine, Industrial, Tailings Area (Note: Young’s Creek is added as another for remediation in 1997);
  • Information gaps need to be addressed to develop plans for each area;
  • Two critical problems to be addressed immediately
  • establish safe working conditions by eliminating mine hazards; remove treatment plant sludge.

Sealing Mine Shafts and Removing Sludge: 1992-95 Ministry locates and secures collapsing mine workings in consultation with Ministry of Northern Development and Mines (MNDM). Mine openings are sealed with engineered rock plugs and concrete shaft caps or backfilled according to MNDM specifications.
Sludge by-product from the arsenic treatment plant is removed to hazardous waste landfills.

Proceeding with Final Remediation Stage 1 Field Work: 1996 -2000
Ministry hired Prime Consultant for project management and consulting engineering. In depth investigation of the Industrial, Tailings, Mind and Young’s Creek areaas done to answer outstanding questions and identify options for cleanup of all contaminants.

Stage 2 Construction: 2001 and ongoing Technical reports are being finalized. Next step is to draft detailed final cleanup plan. Consultation on draft plan is targeted for 2001. Tendering for construction work is targeted for 2002. Cleanup work anticipated to commence in 2002. Final cleanup is expected to take 2-3 years to complete.

Addressing Off-Site IssuesDeloro Village Environmental Health Risk Study: 1998-1999 Ministry conducts a comprehensive environmental health risk study in the village of Deloro to assess potential health impact from all off-site contamination. Study is conducted in cooperation with the Medical Officer of Health, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Labour and community representatives. Final report is released July 1999. Comprehensive environmental sampling and urine testing results find the Village of Deloro is a safe community.