“Dumping toxin-laced water into the Ottawa River must stop”
Sixteen thousand litres of water contaminated with radioactive tritium, PCBs, and other toxins – at levels hundreds 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 in Rolphton, Ontario, says a report by expert hydrogeologist, Wilf Ruland.
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. The report notes that these releases “appear to have been ongoing for decades, and continue.” Ruland analyzed test results published by Canadian Nuclear Laboratories, which operates the site.
Ruland is a specialist in groundwater and surface water contamination, and has served as an expert witness before the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) and other environmental tribunals. His report was prepared for the Algonquin Anishinabeg Nation Tribal Council and submitted to the CNSC as an independent review of hydrogeological issues related to the Nuclear Power Demonstration Closure Project.
“Radioactive substances, PCBs and toxic metals are accumulating in the Ottawa River,” added Norm Odjick, Director General of the Anishinabeg Council. “Millions of Canadians drink this water, including the residents of Ottawa and Montreal. These releases are shocking.”
Levels of radioactive tritium were 586 times higher than Ontario’s Provincial Water Quality Objective (PWQO) for surface water quality in the 2015 releases. The contaminated water also contained 5,450 nanograms per litre of PCBs — while the Ontario PWQO is only one nanogram per litre.
The water also contained mercury, cadmium, copper and lead at levels up to 1,720 times higher than the regulatory guidelines (Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment).
The federal government owns the Rolphton (NPD) Reactor. Located about 100 metres from the Ottawa River, it was shut down in 1987 and has since been maintained in “long-term storage.” All federal nuclear sites are run by Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL), which in September 2015, was privatized to a consortium of US, UK and Canadian companies, including SNC Lavalin.
In September 2017, CNL submitted a proposal to “entomb” the NPD reactor in concrete to the CNSC, the federal agency that regulates the nuclear industry.
“Reactor entombment wouldn’t stop groundwater from penetrating cracks in the concrete walls of the reactor vault, then re-emerging and transporting contaminants down to the river,” says Dr. Ole Hendrickson, a researcher for the Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area (CCRCA); “the entombment proposal is problematic for many reasons and is not a solution to the leaking of contaminated water."
CNL is also proposing to build a landfill-type nuclear waste disposal facility at Chalk River to contain at least 1 million cubic metres of radioactive and toxic waste, domestic and imported. The CNSC is to rule on both proposals this year.