Attawapiskat begins work to dispose of Cold War relic
Completed in the late 1950s, the Mid-Canada Line (MCL) was a short-lived early-warning Doppler radar project designed at the outset of the Cold War. The radar station at Cape Henrietta Maria in Ontario’s Polar Bear Provincial Park on James Bay was labeled site 415.
The site was abandoned in the early 1960s and now, more than four decades later, clean up of the site at Cape Henrietta begins in September.
Steve Hookimaw has been hired to help in this effort. He completed the first round of safety training in his home community of Attawapiskat First Nation.
“I am very happy that we got this training. I do not know the chemicals we’ll be dealing with but I have learned what to do in case of accidents,” Hookimaw said.
He is one of more than 40 community members trained in emergency response, hazardous material handling and other problems they might encounter. The project also needs kitchen staff, liaisons workers and other temporary supports to complete the job.
The Ministry of Natural Resources and the Ontario Parks Department have contracted the remediation project to Sanexen Environmental Services of Montreal and staffing the camp to Attawapiskat Resources Incorporated (ARI). Marc Léger, Coordinating engineer for Sanexen said the partnership between his group and the surrounding community will have many benefits. The environment will be better for all living things, be they plants, animals or humans. On a personal, we want to learn from the Native people about the land the site is on,” he said.
“Everybody used to hunt there, people from Peawanuck, Attawapiskat and Fort Albany. We picked Labrador tea to take home for the elders,” said Greg Koostachin, an Elder, business leader and former Council member in Attawapiskat.
In 1990, he was the first person to report possible contaminants at site 415, “thousand gallon diesel tanks and all kinds of stuff, like drums in the lake, an area one part of government set aside for wildlife, while National Defense destroys its habitat.”
During his tenure in Council, Koostachin said an environmental survey found PCBs, asbestos, hydrocarbons and pesticides such as DDT toxics contaminating the soil around the decaying buildings, machinery, and oil barrels. He says the delay in remediation is troubling but a reality in government and he remains hopeful for a cleaner future and the opportunities it will bring to his grandchildren’s generation.
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