As one of Canada’s largest environmental remediation projects, the ultimate goal of the Port Hope Area Initiative (PHAI) is to clean up historic low-level radioactive waste while protecting the natural environment. Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) remains committed to responsible environmental stewardship with the cleanup of various locations now underway in the Municipality of Port Hope.
Like community members, stakeholder groups and the broader public, CNL sees value in preserving the local tree canopy by balancing the safe removal of historic waste from public and private properties with efforts to minimize the removal of trees – to the greatest extent possible – during the PHAI.
In keeping with environmental commitments, CNL consults with qualified arborists to identify protected species of trees and with remediation specialists to develop methods to preserve trees where possible. However, removal of a number of trees will be required to successfully fulfill the Government of Canada’s commitment to clean up historic waste from various locations in the community, and this will have an impact on the overall tree canopy in Port Hope. For example, tree removal is required to facilitate the safe transfer of impacted soil from areas such as the Strachan Street Ravine, the Highland Drive Landfill area, and in residential neighbourhoods closer to the location of the former Eldorado plant on the waterfront.
CNL mitigates the loss of trees through the PHAI replanting program and endeavours to find ways to reuse the wood in a sustainable manner when possible. Landscaping plans include replacing trees with the same or similar native species, and have been developed with input from the local conservation authority and the Municipality of Port Hope.
In addition, CNL has taken steps to offer alternatives to the removal of trees. These include the introduction of property-owner directed cleanups and the application of the PHAI special circumstances protocol that give the option of leaving waste behind to preserve trees.
CNL has also proposed changes to the PHAI Cleanup Criteria that could significantly reduce the overall impact of the project on trees in the municipality. Any change to the PHAI Cleanup Criteria will require approval from the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) and agreement from other regulators and stakeholders. Discussions with Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks and the Municipality of Port Hope on this topic are continuing. A CNSC hearing on this matter is not expected to be scheduled before spring 2022.
It is important to note, however, that during the CNSC process, some tree removal will continue to occur as part of the PHAI. Cleanup activities, as well as design work – even for heavily wooded areas such as Alexander Street Ravine and Highland Drive South Ravine – are continuing according to the existing, approved parameters of the project.
While the outcome of the process to change the PHAI Cleanup Criteria is not yet known, residents can be certain that CNL is committed to ensuring that Port Hope retains as many trees as possible for the continued enjoyment of generations to come as we undertake the PHAI, the community-requested solution to an environmental issue.
Please contact CNL if you have questions or concerns and visit PHAI.ca for up-to-date project information.
More information on the proposal to change the PHAI Cleanup Criteria can be found here, and comments on the proposal can be submitted here.