Eastern residents will have say

Richard Froese
South Peace News
Residents in the eastern part of Big Lakes County can have their say on concerns they may have about health effects of the Swan Hills hazardous treatment plant.

That was outlined by Keepers of the Athabasca to Big Lakes County council at its regular meeting Nov. 23.

“We will be performing a door-to-door survey in the Kinuso area as requested many times through the years by local residents,” says Jule Asterisk, communications liaison with the organization.

She says the survey will be conducted in the spring after the questions are drafted in conjunction with Alberta Health Surveillance, an expert panel under the provincial government.

That area of the county has been at the core of major concern.

“The first time the approval came up in 1996, near riots hit Kinuso as locals wanted the plant shut down,” Asterisk says.
“The major concern for residents is the perception of increased cancer risk and increased risk of birth defects to widespread, potentially low-grade, contamination.”

Locally, First Nations communities and others have concerns about the plant that was built in 1986 and operated by the provincial government, specializing in PCB destruction.

The plant’s operating licence is up for renewal, and the organization wants monitoring to be expanded.

Big Lakes County has been requested to provide any applicable information and supports any action to protect the health and safety of people.

“We’re always interested in the environment,” Reeve Ken Matthews says.
“We rely on the government themselves to operate its facility and make sure it does proper monitoring.”

He adds if any alternative options to dispose of hazardous waste are available, they should be considered.

While monitoring has occurred exclusively within a 30-km radius of the plant, Keepers of the Athabasca has presented concerns of many residents that residual contamination may have been deposited farther away.

Last month, Keepers of the Athabasca held a meeting with the plant management team, including the division manager for the current contract holder, SUEZ Environmental. SUEZ agreed to provide additional monitoring in the form of three sediment core samples in the communities of Slave Lake, Athabasca, and Fort Assiniboine, Asterisk says.

Lesser Slave Indian Regional Council is concerned regarding Treaty rights when pollution prevents people from engaging in traditional activities. They speak to some very longstanding objections to the operation of the plant.

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