Working through a pandemic: Port Hope Long-Term Waste Management Facility

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With over one million tonnes of historic low-level radioactive waste to manage at the Port Hope Long-Term Waste Management Facility (LTWMF), workers continued to maintain safe site conditions during the pandemic shutdown periods in 2020 and early 2021. 

“While it seemed everything was at a standstill between March and June 2020, we continued to work to maintain safe conditions at the site,” said Jordan Wilson, Manager – Port Hope LTWMF. “It was very important that we did so while meeting all health and safety protocols required by COVID-19,” added Wilson.

During the shutdown period in 2020 when waste was not being received at the facility, workers performed regular checks to ensure that the contaminated soil was safely contained for environmental protection. Supporting both the Port Hope and Port Granby facilities, staff also continued work at the waste water treatment plants to do the essential work of managing any runoff from the cells of the mound and to control surface water.

“Our commitment to protecting the environment is not just talk, this is our main focus and we strive to ensure that our workers, the general public and the environment are protected throughout our work,” added Wilson.

Since the first movement of waste in the community, truckloads of contaminated soil and material have been relocated from various sites in Port Hope, and placed in storage in the engineered mound at the LTWMF. The waste is being removed as part of Canada’s largest environmental cleanup, the Port Hope Area Initiative (PHAI). 

Since the restart of PHAI activities in the community, the LTWMF has been receiving waste from June 2020 and this is expected to ramp up in 2021.  

“The team is diligent in the application of controls to prevent the spread of COVID-19 with robust protocols in place to mitigate and limit exposure,” shared Wilson

Plans for the year include the completion of the final cell (2B), the largest of all four cells, which is expected to store the waste from the upcoming dredging of the Port Hope Harbour. Working closely with the contractor, ECC/Quantum Murray LP, the CNL team feels ready for any challenges in 2021.

“We are pleased with the level of work we performed in 2020.  In particular, the work we did on Cell 2b prepared us to progress the work in the upcoming months,” said Ken Graham Project Director ECC/QM LLP. “We are pleased with our partnership and the support that we are finding in this team approach to PHAI work,” added Graham.

The PHAI involves the cleanup of approximately 1.2 million cubic metres of waste that was placed in various locations within the municipality, as a result of past radium and uranium refining activities by Eldorado Nuclear Limited beginning in the 1930s.

Cleanup at various locations including the Waterworks and Centre Pier sites near the Lake Ontario shoreline, the pads near the Municipal Sewage treatment plant and at the Pine Street Extension near Highland Drive have already been completed.  Smaller amounts of waste are also being removed from a number of privately owned properties, including residences and transferred to the mound.

Residents and other members of the public are encouraged to contact CNL if they have questions or concerns and to visit PHAI.ca for up-to-date project information.