Keepers of the Athabasca communications co-ordinator Jule Asterisk popped into The Leader last week and told us what the group has been up to as of late.
“We’ve been really busy!” she says. “A lot of things are happening.”
According to Asterisk, one of the rather larger projects is the research into the Swan Hills Treatment Centre.
“We successfully challenged the approval of the Swan Hills “hazardous waste” treatment centre,” she says. “We were able to get two core samples of lake sediment taken and the tests show during the years that ‘un-planned releases’ happened contamination occurred.”
These ‘unplanned releases’ refer to the fires and explosions in 1996, 1997 and 2009 that released large amounts of toxins into the air. The samples in Lesser Slave Lake show increased amounts of PCBs and dioxins during these specific years.
For those wondering what in the world is a core lake sediment sample is, fret not, this Leader reporter needed clarification as well.
“It’s similar to tree rings; each layer represents a year and you’re able to see the chemical levels that way,” says Asterisk. “It costs $30,000 for one sample to be taken. They have to dig deep into the lake to take it and then analyze it.”
At its first meeting with treatment centre owner SUEZ Environmental and Alberta Environment and Parks, Keepers of the Athabasca were able to secure extra core samples.
“The plant agreed to provide core samples in Slave Lake, Athabasca and Fort Assiniboine,” says Asterisk. “Afterwards we will get them analyzed and have more information going into the second meeting.”
Going forward, Asterisk says she hopes locals with expertise in this sort of field will help out.
“We’re trying to get our own input of these three samples,” she says. “The Town of Athabasca is going to lend people that aren’t associated with them (SUEZ Environmental) so we can get actually unbiased input.”
Asterisk adds, “We’ve written to Alberta Environment and Alberta Health and have invited them to attend. Alberta Parks will be there as well – we have departments coming and experts there to address long-time community concerns.”
For more information on the upcoming meeting, contact Asterisk at [email protected]
In other news, Asterisk says Keepers made some headway with its solar power projects involving First Nation communities.
“We finished our solar project with Beaver Lake Cree Nation and Fort McMurray First Nation,” she says. “Right now we’re starting to apply for funding for a solar project in Sucker Creek.”
Another interesting project being launched is called ‘Flowing into Right Relationship’.
Asterisk says the program includes a series of community workshops and travelling down the Athabasca River in canoes. The aim is to enlist community groups, partners and the general public to ‘flow into right relationship’ between Indigenous peoples and the rest of Canadians, including immigrants and settlers.
“We’re partnering with the Athabasca and Slave Lake Native Friendship Centres and Northern Lakes College,” she says. “We plan to relay the entire river and each youth will be paired with an elder. We are travelling from Smith to Athabasca and overnighting at Tomato Creek, which was a traditional stopping place for fur traders. We’ll be arriving at the River Rats Festival on Canada Day and will be doing a water ceremony.”