Ottawa River contaminated with nuclear waste

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Our Environment by Katharine Fletcher

March 22 was World Water Day – the day I wrote this col- umn. This international designation offers time to reflect upon water, that “commodity” that happens to be essential to life.

Our Environment by Katharine Fletcher

March 22 was World Water Day – the day I wrote this col- umn. This international designation offers time to reflect upon water, that “commodity” that happens to be essential to life.
Residents of the Outaouais are no different from other Canadians who take clean, safe water for granted. After all, who among us turns off the tap when we’re brushing our teeth? Like most of us, I’m guessing you let potable water drain down the sink.
If we lived in Bermuda, we’d have been raised to conserve every drop of fresh water. Tourists like me notice signs in public toilets, encouraging us not only to wash our hands, but to turn the water off when applying soap or brushing teeth. Ditto in parts of Australia, where we’re asked to limit showers to 3-5 minutes or less.
BOILED-WATER ADVISORIES
However, here in Quyon, Bristol — and many other Quebec communities strung along the Ottawa River — residents are accustomed to boil-water advisories.
That’s pathetic, when you consider all the fresh-water lakes, rivers, streams and springs in our region – and throughout Canada.
OTTAWA RIVER: NUCLEAR CONTAMINATION
Anyone living along the Ottawa River downstream of Rolphton and Chalk River has likely heard of Canadian Nuclear Laboratories’ (CNL’s) proposal to create nuclear storage facilities alongside the Ottawa River. CNL proposes building a nuclear landfill site at Chalk River, and they’re proposing to entomb Rolphton’s reactor.
Many downstream residents share concerns regarding protecting the Ottawa River watershed from nuclear contamination. The Ottawa Riverkeeper, the Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area (CCRCA), plus an increasing number of communities downstream of these two towns remain sceptical regarding the safety of permanently storing nuclear waste alongside the river. This area is a known seismologically unstable region in Canada: how can a landfill or entombment possibly be considered permanently safe solutions?
Rophton’s Nuclear Power Demonstration Reactor is owned by the federal government and is located approximately 100 metres from the river. It was shut in 1987. In September 2015, under the former
Conservative government, all federal nuclear sites operated by Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL), were transferred to a private-sector consortium of U.S., U.K. and Canadian companies, including SNC Lavalin.
NUCLEAR CONTAMINANTS IN RIVER
However, a March 21, 2018 press release from the CCRCA states this regarding Rolphton: “Sixteen thousand litres of water contaminated with radioactive tritium, PCBs and other toxins – at levels hundreds and thousands of times greater than Ontario and Canadian surface water quality standards – were dumped directly into the Ottawa River in 2015 from a non-operating nuclear reactor 200 km northwest of Ottawa… From 1997 to 2015, an annual average of 26,000 litres of radioactive water were discharged into the Ottawa River from the Nuclear Power Demonstration (NPD) reactor in Rolphton, Ontario.”
The author, Wilf Ruland, is an expert hydrogeologist who analyzed test results published by CNL.
The press release continues, “Levels of radioactive tritium in the contaminated water, at 4,100,000 Becquerels per litre, were 586 times higher than Ontario’s Provincial Water Quality Objective for surface water quality (PWQO) in the 2015 releases. The Becquerel is a measure of how radioactive a substance is, that is, how many radioactive particles per second it emits.”
Ottawa River water also contains mercury, cadmium, copper and lead levels “1,720 times higher” than considered acceptable by standards for surface waters
OUTAOUAIS 2018 WEST QUEBEC
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specified by the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment’s (CCME) Environmental    Quality Guidelines.
The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission is the federal agency regulating the Canadian nuclear industry. It must take a close, objective look at CNL’s two proposals before accepting solutions which that private consor- tium claims will provide safe, permanent containment of nuclear waste.
But hang on. Will entomb- ing the Rolphton reactor work? Can the proposed Chalk River nuclear waste landfill be a permanent solution, as CNL claims?
After the publication of such cautionary reports as this one authored by Ruland, why should residents living downstream of these sites trust a private consortium, CNL to manage either project safely?    -Katharine Fletcher