Faust contamination clean-up headline misleading

To the Editor,

Re: “Clean-up of contaminated site in Faust is progressing”
I find the headline of this article to be very misleading. The Request for Proposal put out by Alberta Environment last fall doesn’t actually call for any clean-up, but an Exposure Control Plan, based on a human and ecological risk assessment.

The Osmose Site in Faust has some of the most toxic chemicals known to humankind; PCPs arsenic, and extremely toxic dioxins. This is because during the plant’s operation in the 1960s, it burned wood waste that was already saturated in toxins from treating wood. Some of this contamination is inside the fenced area, but there are plenty of hotspots outside the fence as well. Last July, a skid steer was stuck about 10 metres away from one of the known hotspots outside the fence, and the rutted ground this caused shows just how easy it is to expose contaminants.

I have been involved in ‘stakeholder meetings’ about this site since 2006. Last July, the first ever public meeting was held in Faust by Big Lakes County. In his presentation, an engineer from Alberta Environment said that there is evidence that quads are tracking contamination around from driving over hotspots. Local residents have been calling for the road to the lake (more of a quad trail now) to be closed for some time, but it has not been. Exposure control is certainly a good idea! Hotspots outside the fence create constant risk of further tracking, and how will we know which areas are currently contaminated, if this stuff is still getting tracked around?

Glad as I am to see that Alberta Environment is finally considering an exposure control plan, based on risks to environment and human health, it seems premature to talk about having ‘something we can use’ by July 2018. The Exposure Control Plan is due on February 28. Then we will see how the ‘human and ecological risk assessment’ was performed. No one has been out at the site doing any environmental testing over the winter, so my curiosity is really going. It seems to me that the environmental and human health evaluation of this contaminated area should come first, taking into account all of the hotspots outside the fence, including some that are close to the lake. We know that remediation for this type of contamination is recommended during the winter months, but no one yet has mentioned clean-up or remediation, certainly not Alberta Environment. I am watching closely to see what the environmental and health assessment says, in particular about the hotspots outside the fence. The water and fish of Lesser Slave Lake have never yet been tested for dioxins, in all the decades of studies on this contaminated site.
In friendship,

Jule Asterisk
Slave Lake, AB

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