Broughton mayor miffed by DEW Line clean-up delay
Broughton Island residents living near an abandoned U.S. military installation are disappointed that clean-up at the site can’t begin sooner than planned.
Broughton Island Mayor Lootie Toomasie told Baffin MLAs and other regional leaders at a meeting in Pangnirtung last weekend that it could take years before work starts on the distant early warning (DEW Line) site near his community.
The Fox Five site isn’t scheduled to be cleaned up until the year 2000, but Toomasie recently asked the Department of National Defence to move the start date forward. The request was denied, he said.
“Although we strongly expressed we wanted this site to be a priority,” Toomasie said at the meeting, “it went in one ear and out the other.”
When contacted in Ottawa, Rob Martel, DND’s project manager for DEW Line clean-up, said those concerns weren’t expressed when he visited Broughton Island twice last year to explain the clean-up schedule.
“Had this concern been brought up last year, we would have been able to rearrange the priorities without a problem,” Martel said.
Toomasie wrote to DND late this spring asking that the clean-up at Cape Dyer, located south of Broughton Island, be delayed in favor of an early start for the Fox Five site. Martel said that’s impossible.
Two years away
Martel said DND needs at least two years to carry out a detailed scientific inventory of the types and levels of contamination at each site. He said there isn’t enough time this year to assess the Fox Five site in time for clean-up to start next summer.
Sites at Cape Dyer, Hall Beach and Pelly Bay will be assessed this year with clean-up set to begin at Cape Dyer next year. Sites at Hall Beach and Pelly Bay are scheduled to be cleaned up in 1999. Martel said DND scientists will be ready next summer to evaluate the Fox Five site and three other Nunavut sites.
“I could cancel Cape Dyer, but I couldn’t do Broughton Island,” Martel said. “There have been no preparations from the scientific point of view. The scientific team is not geared up to do that. We couldn’t move Broughton Island ahead if we wanted to.”
Martel said the Cape Dyer site, though not located near a community, is higher on the list of priorities because in initial assessments, scientists detected high levels of contamination.
The American air force established 42 DEW Line sites across the Canadian North following the end of the Second World War. Half of these were shut down in the mid-1960s and transferred to the Department of Indian affairs and Northern Development. The other sites remained operational until recently, and are the responsibility of National Defence.
$2 million for scientific work
Currently, 15 DEW Line sites are scheduled for clean-up by DND. DIAND is also in the process of cleaning up its sites.
Martel said National Defence has budgeted about $2 million for scientific analyses of all the northern DEW Line sites; another $180 million has been earmarked for the actual clean-up.
Work at Cape Hooper, a site located between Clyde River and Pond Inlet, began last year and is expected to be completed this year. But a breakdown in talks between Nunavut Tunngavik Inc and DND is beginning to hamper other clean-up efforts. Clean-up at Cambridge Bay, set to begin this year, has been cancelled.
Talks were stalled early this spring when NTI and DND couldn’t reach an agreement on how deal with potential contaminants.
“Our conern is that some of the contaminated materials will be left buried on the site,” James Eetoolook, NTI vice-president said. “We’re looking for a good clean-up that’s acceptable for the people of Nunavut. We want to make such there’s no hazardous material leaching from the landfill sites.”
Eetoolook said DND won’t spend the money needed to conduct a proper clean-up. He added NTI wants to see a commitment from DND to monitor the sites for longer than nine years after clean-up.
NTI and DND are expected to sit down in September to again try to hammer out a deal.
“We’re optimistic we’ll have some kind of agreement by early spring of next year,” he said.