MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Belledune still seeks answers

Published by MAC on 2007-08-10

Belledune still seeks answers

To The Editor, Times & Transcript

10th August 2007

Since the mid-1960s, several industries, most notable of which is a lead smelter, have been situated in the small Bay of Chaleur community of Belledune. Over the past 40 years, citizens of the Belledune area were led to believe, by both government and industry, that their environment was healthy and safe.

About four years ago, the Government of New Brunswick announced its decision to allow Bennett Environmental Inc. to construct a toxic soil incinerator in Belledune without conducting a full Environmental Impact Assessment. This incinerator would have the capability to emit dioxins a million times more toxic than the high heavy metal pollution already present in the Belledune area. These emissions would threaten the communities along the Bay of Chaleur in both New Brunswick and Quebec. As a result, concerned citizens became more proactive and called for immediate action from the government to reverse this decision. Since that time, some studies were undertaken.

1. More independent soil tests were done for private property owners. These tests consistently revealed unacceptable high levels of heavy metals, such as lead and arsenic in soil samples especially those east of the lead smelter.

2. A study was conducted by Inka Milewski of the Conservation Council of New Brunswick that examined the written communications between industry in Belledune, the New Brunswick government and testing groups that carried on studies of the Belledune area over the previous 40 years. Inka Milewski's document entitled "Dying for Development", published by the Conservation Council in 2006, revealed a history of cover-up and non-disclosure of environmental and health stresses that had existed in the Belledune area for about 40 years.

3. In 2005, a very important report (Belledune Health Study) by Goss Gilroy, a consulting firm commissioned by the provincial government, was released. Two of the many alarming health issues raised in the study which compared the health of the Belledune area residents with provincial norms, include findings of: a 33 per cent greater cancer rate of all citizens; and a 40 per cent greater mortality rate in males.

It is now two years later, and still, we have no explanation for the very high cancer rates and mortality rates that exist in their industrial area of Belledune. A cancellation of the memorial study, as reported in the press last week, indicates the continuation of the legacy of cover-up concerning the health and environmental conditions in the Belledune area. By canceling the Memorial Health Study, does it mean that the New Brunswick government does not care about the health of the people in the Belledune area?

Reginald Killoran,

Bathurst

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