Open letter to Municipal District of Lesser Slave River:
Individuals and groups around Lesser Slave Lake have been concerned about the Swan Hills (hazardous waste) Treatment Centre (SHTC) since before it opened 30 years ago in 1987.
When the Keepers of the Athabasca accepted the Swan Hills file, it was based on these local concerns, which now have the legitimacy of being recognized by Alberta Environment.
While previous challenges to the Approval for this facility were not successful, our challenge in 2015 was. We feel that in part this is because PCBs have shown increased amounts for the years this facility had ‘unplanned releases’ in lake sediment core samples from the State of the Watershed technical report of 2015.
I remember when I first learned about our situation with hazardous waste incineration in the 1990s from Ron Haunts, who owned the Sports First store in Slave Lake at that time. He had put together a petition to prevent hazardous waste from being imported from around the world to be incinerated in Swan Hills.
My family had just moved up from Mexico City because it was so polluted we were constantly ill, so I wanted to learn more about this issue. I ended up getting sent to Ottawa to represent at the Canadian Environment Network at a Committee for Environmental Cooperation conference on the transboundary movement of hazardous waste with delegates from Canada, Mexico, and the US. At that time, serious consideration was being given to shipping hazardous waste all around the world for treatment!
I am glad to say that through the learning at our conference, we were able to promote source reduction of hazardous waste (make less haz waste), and treatment close to the source (less international shipping).
Now that the SHTC has been in operation for 30 years, serious and legitimate questions about cumulative emissions from this facility, owned by Alberta Infrastructure, arise. Keepers of the Athabasca are working with SUEZ Environmental, the current contractors operating the plant, to add monitoring locations for fall 2017. Their normal monitoring plan only calls for tests to be done within 20 kilometres of the plant. We had asked for additional core sediment samples to be taken at the Town of Slave Lake, Town of Fort Assiniboine, and Town of Athabasca.
Originally, SUEZ agreed to the three locations, but now they have stated only one location of our choice. In the course of my presentations to various interested municipalities and First Nations, I learn that three is a better number for the addition of core sediment samples, as we are at the 30-year milestone. Alberta Environment has informed us that if we can’t come to an agreement with SUEZ, they will take charge of our concerns.
I would be glad to come and speak to the Municipal District of Lesser Slave River if you would like, or more information is available here:
Keepers of the Athabasca,
Slave Lake, AB