On November 10, 2016, Lake Ontario Waterkeeper presented at the hearing for the Port Hope Area Initiative (PHAI). Pippa Feinstein and Wilf Ruland represented Lake Ontario Waterkeeper and made oral presentations to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission. This is what Pippa Feinstein's presented.
Good morning, President Binder and Commission Members,
Thank you for the opportunity to address you all today. For the record, my name is Pippa Feinstein and I am representing Lake Ontario Waterkeeper which has been granted intervener status in this meeting to hear CNSC staff updates concerning the Port Hope Area Initiative (PHAI). I am joined by Mr. Wilf Ruland, who was retained by Waterkeeper to provide expert analysis concerning the impacts of the PHAI activities and facilities on local surface water.
Founded in 2001, Waterkeeper is a non-political registered charity focusing on environmental research and justice issues in the public interest. It is dedicated to protecting and celebrating the swimmability, drinkabilty, and fishability of the Lake Ontario watershed. Waterkeeper has been involved with decision-making processes for the PHAI for almost a decade. The organization has also enjoyed long-standing relationships with many Port Hope residents since its founding in 2001.
The PHAI is an internationally significant undertaking. It is the biggest radioactive waste clean-up project in Canadian history, involves one of the largest nuclear waste holding facilities in North America, and requires the excavation and management of 2 million cubic metres of low-level radioactive waste.
Some components of the PHAI are incredibly invasive and complex including the dredging and excavation of the entire Port Hope Harbour down to bedrock, as well as the plans to excavate specific layers of radioactive contaminated waste from the municipal landfill on Highland Drive. Waterkeeper is committed to assisting the Commission, the local community, and PHAI project management in carrying out the initiative in a transparent, cooperative, and effective way.
While the PHAI facilities and their construction appears to be of high quality, using advanced technology, there are other aspects of the PHAI that require improvement. Through our intervention we have made a series of 15 recommendations for ways in which the PHAI can be improved in order to better protect and promote the community’s historical and ecological heritage.
Our recommendations fall under four broad categories:
First, the LTWMFs and WWTPs should have more comprehensive, explicit, and enforceable effluent release limits.
Additions of effluent release limits for Uranium and other contaminants of potential concern (COPC) should be added to the existing CNSC licenses for these facilities, and design objectives for facilities should be adopted as licence limits. It is also imperative that any and all action levels be set to ensure that emissions from the WWTPs adhere to PWQOs, CCME standards, and the Fisheries Act.
Second, monitoring plans for the LTWMFs and WWTPs should be extended to cover a longer period of time since the environmental threats of radioactive contamination remain for centuries.
(Mr. Ruland will discuss these two concerns in more detail shortly.)
Waterkeeper’s third concern is related to the continuing lack of proper inter-jurisdictional cooperation between the federal and Ontario authorities.
While the federal government has taken on a leadership role in the PHAI, the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) must still ensure non-radioactive contaminants falling under provincial jurisdiction are meeting provincial standards. The MOECC has been unacceptably absent from the PHAI. However, the PHAI must still comply with Ontario’s provincial environmental laws.
Waterkeeper stresses the need for the CNSC and federal government to include the MOECC in its administration of the PHAI, and to ensure that the MOECC can actively regulate aspects of the PHAI that would fall under provincial jurisdiction.
For example, the MOECC should at least be able to participate in processes that set regulatory effluent limits and Action Levels for the facilities so that it can ensure the PHAI facilities adhere to provincial water quality standards. The PHAI should also be required to share its effluent monitoring data with the MOECC so that the provincial authorities can ensure compliance with provincial emissions limits.
Cooperative and complementary inter-jurisdictional environmental regulation is often mischaracterized and dismissed as “unnecessary duplication.” However, when done properly it is the best way to ensure comprehensive environmental protection – increasing the efficacy of existing environmental law.
Properly coordinated inter-jurisdictional regulation has two major benefits (both of which would apply to the PHAI): first, it allows the project to benefit from the skills and expertise of a wider range of government experts; and second, the application of both provincial and federal regulations can mean more comprehensive and precautionary emissions limits.
Waterkeeper’s fourth concern is related to the PHAI’s Public Information Program (PIP).
Waterkeeper commends the PHAI for its considerable community outreach activities, its Public Information Exchange (PIE), and easy-to-navigate website. At the same time, the PHAI’s Public Disclosure Protocol (PDP) should be amended to explicitly require that all reportable incidents to the CNSC and MOECC be uploaded onto its website. These reports should include: an online posting date, the date of the accident (or estimated date), and estimated or known quantities and concentrations of any releases. If this information is not known at the time of posting, it should be noted as an incident update to the original notice as soon as the relevant information is obtained.
The PIP should also be strengthened by adding a mandatory data-sharing component that would make disaggregated environmental monitoring results publicly accessible. This should be fairly easy to do as all the necessary testing is already being done, and it could just be uploaded to the already existing parts of the PHAI webpages that address environmental monitoring. This kind of data sharing would increase the PHAI’s transparency, by establishing exactly how its public safety assurances are supported by available evidence. Data sharing in this way is also consistent with the Canadian government’s open-access policies, which apply to Environment Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and Natural Resources Canada.
Given the significant involvement of the federal government with the PHAI, ensuring that the initiative meets its goals for publicly available and usable data would be consistent with its own policy.
* Example: limits on Arsenic emissions are included in WWTP design releases, however it is also a provincially regulated substance, subject to specific release limits in the Ontario Drinking Water Quality Standards Regulation (O Reg 169/09) [under the Safe Drinking Water Act] and the General Waste Management Regulation (O Reg 347) [under the Environmental Protection Act].
** MOECC isn’t a signatory on the federal-municipal agreement establishing the PHAI and its terms of reference; in 2005 it failed to conduct its own EA of the PHAI; and to date it has not been involved in PHAI licensing processes. It is also troubling that neither the Port Hope nor the Port Granby WWTPs has an Environmental Compliance Approval (ECA).
*** Namely the provincial Environmental Bill of Rights (EBR), Environmental Protection Act (EPA), Ontario Water Resources Act (ODRA), and the Sustainable Development Act (SDA).
**** While the Joint Regulatory Panel (JRP) which was established in 2013 is a step in the right direction, but as it only involves the one-sided sharing of information, rather than any meaningful exchange of information and recommendations for specific action, it still falls short of the kind of inter-jurisdictional cooperation required by a project of the PHAI’s magnitude.
***** Example: ECA spill reporting requirements are more specific and demanding than those contained in CNSC licence conditions: they specify that a spill must be reported within a day of when it initially occurs, while the CNSC only requires reports within a day of any spill’s detection. Also, some substances are regulated by both jurisdictions, though one limit may be lower than the other. Ensuring co-regulation can ensure the application of the stricter limit resulting in more protective regulation.