Port Hope Harbour Area of Concern
The Port Hope Harbour Area of Concern is located adjacent to the mouth of the Ganaraska River on the north shore of Lake Ontario approximately 100 km east of Toronto. The Area of Concern includes the harbour area and extends 300 metres from the lower Ganaraska River to the confluence area bounded by breakwalls. The Town of Port Hope, a community of 15 000 people, is located nearby.
Why was this area identified?
Port Hope Harbour was designated as an Area of Concern due to contaminated sediments in the harbour. Approximately 90,000 cubic metres of sediments in the turning basin and west slip areas of Port Hope Harbour are contaminated with uranium and thorium series radionuclides, heavy metals, and Polychlorinated Biphenyl (PCB). The contamination of the harbour sediments is the result of past waste management practices in the refining and processing of uranium and radium during the 1930s and 1940s.
What is being done? How is it being done?
Much of Port Hope Harbour sediments, due to contamination by uranium series radionuclides, are low-level radioactive wastes. The contamination is attributed to historic discharges from the Port Hope refinery of the former federal crown corporation, Eldorado Nuclear Limited. There are low-level radioactive wastes at various sites in the Port Hope area and efforts by the Government of Canada have been underway since 1988 to find a solution for the cleanup and long-term management of these wastes. Harbour sediment remediation has been contingent on the success of this initiative.
An agreement between the federal government and the Town of Port Hope and adjacent municipalities was reached in March 2001 on the cleanup of the wastes and development of facilities for their long-term management. The initial preconstruction and regulatory phases, including a full environmental assessment, are expected to take approximately five years with the implementation of the cleanup taking another projected five years. Implementation of the estimated $260 million project is managed by Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) through the Low-Level Radioactive Waste Management Office.
Highlight of the Remedial Action Plan (RAP)
In March 2001, the Government of Canada, represented by NRCan, and the municipalities of Port Hope and Clarington entered into a legal agreement for the clean-up and long-term management of local historic low-level radioactive wastes, including wastes found within Port Hope Harbour. With the signing of the legal agreement, the Government of Canada began a 10-year, $260-million initiative to develop a long-term solution which will be carried out in four phases. The first phase, now underway, will involve the environmental assessment of the proposed project and subsequent regulatory review. Subsequent phases will involve cleaning up the wastes, including those found in the harbour, developing new management facilities and emplacing the wastes, followed by a phase of long-term monitoring.
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