Fuel oil drums left on the land
Oil drums dating back to the 1970s remain on the land near Eabametoong.
Bill Shawinimash, a band member of the community, raised his concerns about the issue during the Oct. 27 Matawa Environmental Conference for Northern Ontario
“At that small lake east of Fort Hope, there were five 45-gallon drums full of fuel oil left by some exploration company that was exploring for minerals in that area,” Shawinimash said.
“To date, nothing has been done about that. They’re still out there as far as I know.”
Lindsey Jupp, an environmental technologist with Matawa First Nations, said the situation has not changed since the conference.
“A lot of the barrels are not marked or identified so they can’t be tracked back to any company or ministry,” Jupp said.
“We’re speaking with a number of ministries, both provincial and federal, about how to find out who might have been on the land at that time and where these barrels and equipment have come from and why it’s been deposited where it is.”
Matawa is also looking into funding to sample and remediate the sites.
“But right now we are just in the process of identifying whereabouts they are,” Jupp said.
Jupp said it is difficult to remediate remote sites because it is not possible to bring in heavy equipment for drilling and digging.
“It costs a lot of money to mobilize any equipment we would need,” Jupp said.
“The easiest form of doing it would probably be soil and surface water samples, but then again we are not at that stage.
“First we need to find out who was responsible because if you have a party that you know was responsible for the dump site, then they could potentially, if they are still in business, be responsible for cleaning it up.”
Jupp said Matawa is currently looking at developing permits within the new Mining Act so any companies taking on land claims with abandoned fuel oil drums and equipment would have to clean up the sites before being allowed to proceed with their own exploration activities.
“And obviously clean up what they will be creating,” Jupp said.
“The majority are legacy issues and it is hard to find records of who was on the land at that time.”
Jupp said there are mining and exploration camps up north that no one knows anything about.
“The intention of the communities and Matawa is to not create any disturbance or create any problems,” Jupp said.
“Our first action is just the land. We’re concerned about everything living on the land, so we don’t want to create any trouble – we want to work together.”
Jupp said the government ministries are beginning to see the abandoned fuel oil drums and equipment are an important issue that needs to be dealt with.
“Some of them do have holes, they could be leaking,” Jupp said.
“The residual effects could be long lasting.”
The Ministry of Northern Development, Mines and Forestry, Ministry of Natural Resources, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada and Health Canada have been working on the issue, said a MNR spokeswoman.
“Ministry of Northern Development, Mines and Forestry is looking into the community’s concerns regarding the old oil drums and also batteries that have been found in and around the area,” said Emily Kirk, an MNR spokesperson.
“The focus of their work has been to broker cleanup agreements with exploration companies up there, also to look for more information to track down responsible parties and also to assess any environmental risk that (the oil drums and batteries) may pose and options for cleanup.”
Kirk said a meeting on preventing materials such as oil drums and batteries from being left on the land in the future is scheduled for December in Thunder Bay.
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