Ottawa Citizen August 31/2001

Ontario drops charges against own ministry   by Tom Spears

The Ontario government has dropped pollution charges against itself stemming from low-level radioactive waste dumped decades ago at the abandoned Deloro gold mine north of Belleville.

The charges alleged the Environment Ministry failed to stop radioactive pollution from uranium refining waste that was dumped in the ’50s and ’60s.

They were laid privately by Toronto resident Tom Adams on behalf of an activist group to which he belongs, the Environmental Bureau of Investigation.

But the Ontario attorney-general’s office took over prosecution early on and appointed an independent prosecutor. Yesterday he withdrew the charges, eight weeks after a judge acquitted the Environment Ministry on similar charges, also related to Deloro.

Ontario’s earliest nuclear companies dumped radioactive waste with no containment in the village of Deloro until the ’50s, and possibly the early ’60s.

This material is mainly uranium waste used to make glow-in-the-dark aircraft instruments.

The mine and dumping area beside the Moira River stood abandoned until the Ontario Environment Ministry took it over in the early 1980s to control mine pollution unrelated to the radioactive waste dumping.

Former Environment minister Norm Sterling once called it “Ontario’s most contaminated land.” A long cleanup process is still going on.

Mr. Adams’ group laid charges relating to the mining pollution — chiefly arsenic — first. But in June an Ottawa judge acquitted the Environment Ministry of the arsenic charges.

The separate charge of radiation pollution alleged Ontario allowed part of the site under its control to continue emitting radiation from uranium, thorium and radium.

“We oppose the decision of the attorney-general to withdraw,” Mr. Adams said yesterday. “We think the charges are solid.”

Measurements around residential areas near the dumping ground showed radiation levels as much as 200 times higher than what federal nuclear regulations allow for publicly accessible areas, Mr. Adams said.