Canadian Consulting Engineer

Pollution continuing legacy of Maritime industry

Environmental contaminants that can cause serious human health problems continue to be found around smelting and mi...

December 8, 2004   Canadian Consulting Engineer

Environmental contaminants that can cause serious human health problems continue to be found around smelting and mining operations in the Maritimes.
In November, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported that people living near a former Noranda copper and smelter mine in Murdochville, Quebec were alarmed to discover that levels of arsenic in the air in the Gaspe region town had been 7,500 times higher than they should have been. A group of local residents discovered the information in a health study conducted 10 years ago, a study which they acquired through access-to-information laws. Nine former workers at the plant are also asking for a public enquiry into the dangers of beryllium which the plant was importing between 1990 and 2000. The plant was closed down two years ago.
Then on December 1, CBC reported that two women from Belledune in New Brunswick’s north had high levels of heavy metals in their blood. Belledune has a Noranda lead smelter.
One woman had a cadmium level of 0.0258 when the normal range is zero to 0.0089. Her arsenic level was 301, whereas 200 is considered normal.
The Conservation Council of New Brunswick has tested properties within six kilometres of the lead smelter and found high levels of heavy metal contamination in the soil. The council wants the government to order a clean-up of the 35-year old Belledune smelter site, but the Environment Minister is waiting for a consultant’s report due out next year before making a decision.
A report of the Noranda monitoring program dated October 2003 and published on the Government of New Brunswick website says that while levels of heavy metals are elevated on the Noranda property, they drop off dramatically at a distance. The report says levels of lead contamination are safe at all Belledune residential properties.

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