The consistent feedback from Port Hope residents about their experiences with the PHAI cleanup has been a key topic of recent updates to Municipal Council over the past few months. Now, to address this feedback, Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) is proposing changes to the Port Hope Area Initiative (PHAI) Cleanup Criteria.
In an update to the Committee of the Whole at the September 15 meeting, Scott Parnell (CNL’s General Manager for the PHAI) was joined by Richard Sexton, President and CEO of Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) to announce that CNL has submitted an application to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) to amend the PHAI cleanup criteria.
CNL is implementing the cleanup in the Port Hope community on behalf of AECL, a federal Crown corporation. AECL has the responsibility for upholding the Government of Canada’s commitments under the Legal Agreement to clean up historic low level radioactive waste (LLRW) in the area.
“AECL, Canada and CNL remain committed to delivering on our cleanup promises, to safely and responsibly execute the project that leaves a positive legacy,” states Sexton. He also announced that AECL has carefully reviewed the proposal and is supportive of the application.
The proposed change to the PHAI Cleanup Criteria is aimed at addressing feedback from residents concerned about the length of time the cleanup takes as well as possible negative impacts to the environment, including a significant loss of trees.
“We recognize that the PHAI is a community-requested initiative, and together with CNL, we are committed to adapting to the changing needs of the community over time,” Sexton added.
After reviewing the first two years of cleanup work on residential properties, CNL identified that changing the criteria for arsenic from 18 parts per million (ppm) to 100 ppm and uranium from 23 ppm to 35 ppm would reduce unintended impacts to the community, while still being protective of human health.
“The real-life experience gained by completing a number of remediation activities in Port Hope has made it very apparent to CNL, AECL, and many of the property owners, that the application of the generic cleanup levels as currently defined are frankly impractical and likely will have a significant negative impact on both the natural and built characteristics of the town,” continued Sexton.
CNL will be providing a number of opportunities this fall for Port Hope residents and other interested stakeholders to learn more and give feedback about the proposed changes, including focus groups, stakeholder meetings and a public information session. In keeping with public health precautions during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is likely that all participation will be online or by phone.
Parnell provided details about the objectives of the public engagement process and shared some of the ways in which residents and any interested person can offer feedback to CNL.
“We want everybody in the community to join the conversations,” added Parnell.
Before any changes to the Criteria are made, there must be acceptance from key stakeholders, including the Municipality of Port Hope. The CNSC hearing is expected to take place in the spring 2022 at the earliest with a formal decision made by early summer.