Red tape stalls PCB clean-up
Resolution Island project may be in trouble

Kerry McCluskey
Northern News Services

NNSL (Jul 06/98) - The only thing holding up the removal of dangerously high levels of PCBs from an abandoned military base on Resolution Island is the Nunavut Impact Review Board.

Andre MacNeil of the Qikiqtaaluk Corporation, the company hired by the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs to execute the cleanup, says the project is in real jeopardy if the board takes much longer to review the plans.

"We're concerned that their actions in trying to extend their review could have a detrimental effect on the environment rather than protecting it," MacNeil told News/North, referring to the silence and lack of explanation surrounding the board's request for an extension last month in reviewing the project.

Located just over 300 kilometres south of Baffin Island, DIAND approved the cleanup of the contaminants from the old American base under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act earlier this year. In Arpil, DIAND allocated almost $8 million to the first year of the five-year project.

But the Nunavut Land Claim requires all projects to be screened by the Nunavut Impact Review Board before a permit is issued and MacNeil said the setup and preparation of the project is on the verge of being botched.

"Our immediate concern is their silence. We can't do something unless they tell us what it is ... we're concerned the construction season will end before they make their concerns known," says MacNeil,

Joe Ahmad of the review board said the delay has been caused by an unanticipated high number of projects waiting for examination.

"There is a process and we have to go through the process. The Nunavut Impact Review Board is not delaying that process. That is not correct ... not fair," said Ahmad.

He added that a decision about the review may be made this week. That could spur DIAND into issuing a permit.

"We're working at breakneck speed and it's first come, first serve. People get upset because they feel their projects should be a priority."

According to a study conducted by Queen's University in Ontario, high levels of PCBs (up to 8,000 parts per million) along with lead and cobalt need to be removed from the site.

If the project doesn't go ahead this season, the toxins will remain in contact with the environment for another year.