Cameco Corporation operates a uranium conversion plant and uranium fuel manufacturing plant in the Town of Port Hope, on the shores of Lake Ontario. The company has applied for a renewal of “Permit to Take Water 89-P-3022” for industrial purposes, which would allow it to continue taking water from the lake to use as cooling water in its plants. This water would be discharged back into the lake after passing through the facility. The Ministry of the Environment (MOE) must decide whether it should renew this permit, and if so, what terms and conditions should be imposed on Cameco to protect the environment.
Lake Ontario Waterkeeper submits that Cameco’s water taking causes environmental damage to ﬁsh and ﬁsh habitat that contravenes federal law. Fish impingement and entrainment occur when water is taken from the lake for industrial purposes, as it is taken into the Cameco plant in Port Hope. The plume of warmed water that is discharged from the plant constitutes the deposit of a deleterious substance and can have negative effects on ﬁsh, including cold-water shock and fungal infections. Terms and conditions must be imposed to ensure Cameco’s operation does not continue to contravene the federal Fisheries Act by destroying ﬁsh or ﬁsh habitat or by depositing a deleterious substance in
waters frequented by ﬁsh.
The project is located at the heart of one of Lake Ontario’s most historic and environmentally vulnerable harbours. For nearly a century, nuclear-related industrial pollution has affected water quality and the natural environment in and around Port Hope. Cameco’s facility is a source of ongoing pollution in this sensitive area, as evidenced by the recent discovery of contamination beneath both plants in Port Hope and reported incidents of non-compliance with provincial environmental standards. The MOE is required by law to consider the historic and ongoing pollution in Port Hope before making a decision that could affect the environment in this sensitive area.
In order to protect the environment and to comply with the law, the MOE must not renew Cameco’s permit without clear, independent scientiﬁc evidence showing that the operation does not harm ﬁsh or ﬁsh habitat, or contribute to historic or ongoing contamination in the area. If a renewal is granted, Cameco’s permit should expire on, or before, February 29, 2012, to ensure it does not outlast the expiry of the facility’s federal operating license.