Cameco Corporation operates a uranium conversion plant and uranium fuel manufacturing plant in the Town of Port Hope, on the shores of Lake Ontario. Cameco is seeking a new Certificate of Approval under section 53 of the Ontario Water Resources Act for Industrial Sewage Works. The C of A would allow it discharge used cooling water into the lake after it passes through the facility. However, the discharge approval that Cameco seeks is not for a new sewage works or an amendment to an existing sewage works. Instead, Cameco has been discharging cooling water effluent into Lake Ontario without approval or oversight from the Ministry of the Environment [“the Ministry”] since at least 1988, when the company took over the facility from Eldorado Nuclear Ltd.
The Ministry of the Environment [“the Ministry”] must decide whether it should issue this Certificate, and if so, what terms and conditions should be imposed on Cameco to protect the environment. Lake Ontario Waterkeeper [“LOW”] submits that Cameco’s sewage works discharge may cause environmental damage to fish and fish habitat that could contravene federal law. 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 depositing a deleterious substance in waters frequented by fish.
In addition to the authority to impose terms and conditions on a licence, the Ontario Water Resources Act gives the Ministry special power, where a sewage works has been operating without a licence, to order a change in location of the discharge or order a change to the sewage works system itself. Cameco has been operating this unlicensed sewage works at its Port Hope Conversion Facility since 1988. The Ministry should use this opportunity to order Cameco to install the least harmful cooling water system available, which the attached expert report suggests is a closed (or dry) circuit cooling water system. This change could be completed during other facility upgrades, for example, as part of the upcoming Vision 2010 Project, which will see major construction on the Port Hope Conversion Facility site.
SUMMARY OF RECOMMENDATIONS
In accordance with the legal, scientific and policy concerns summarized above, Lake Ontario Waterkeeper submits the following recommendations:
The Ministry should use its authority to order Cameco to install the best cooling water system in its Port Hope facility.
Terms and conditions must be imposed to ensure Cameco’s operation does not contravene the federal Fisheries Act by destroying fish or fish habitat or by depositing a deleterious substance in waters frequented by fish.
Terms and conditions must be imposed to ensure the discharged water does not add to the ongoing contamination of the Port Hope harbour.
The Application must be considered in the context of the historic contamination that is pervasive in Port Hope, Lake Ontario and particularly on the Cameco site, in order to comply with the MOE’s Statement of Environmental Values (SEV).
If granted, Cameco’s C of A should expire on, or before, February 29, 2012, and be reviewed in conjunction with Vision 2010.
View Waterkeeper's full submission here in .pdf format.