How did it get this far?

In Wednesday's The Northern View there was a Notice of Intention to dredge material from near an old pulp mill waste discharge pipe.


In Wednesday’s The Northern View there was a Notice of Intention to dredge material from near an old pulp mill waste discharge pipe and dump it directly into the water just below Digby Island near the entrance to Prince Rupert’s inner harbour.

The Prince Rupert Port Authority is a co-proponent of the development project, but they aren’t taking any responsibility for the environmental threat from this resuspension of highly toxic dioxin and furans into our local waters.

Many of you won’t know that there was a pulp mill waste discharge site beside the grain terminal.  The proposed dredge site is off Ridley Island and just north of Coast Island.  The CEAA for this project from what I understand should have done about 15 – 20 samples to test for dioxin and furan levels but they did not!  I think they were negligent and I and others have been trying quietly over the last four months to encourage the various authorities to do the required testing and mitigation needed to protect local human health (and the Skeena salmon smolts and other marine wildlife which use this area).

The few samples we have for this area are scary.

When compared to Canada’s TEL (Toxic Effects Level) some are 2.5 times higher.

When compared to the Norwegian sediment classification system they fall in the “Very Bad” category.

When compared to the Washington and Oregon state level for concern (which requires mediation) — specifically taking into account human subsistence use — some are 75 times too high!

I really cannot understand why this has reached the permitting phase without adequate sampling and discussion of mitigation options.  I know we all want the Canpotex project to go through but surely we are a civilized and rich enough society to afford to do it properly.  The reason so many pulp mills were forced to shut down or change their processing was because we discovered just how dangerous dioxins and furans are.  They are very long lived, they accumulate and they move up the food chain.  Mothers breast milk in BC was in the toxic range in the mid – eighties as a result of our experiment with pulp mills.  It is getting better but resuspending the accumulated load of it which lies just in the surface of our harbour entrance deserves serious consideration. We should at least look at the mitigation techniques which are used in Puget Sound and elsewhere where others are dealing with the issue.

I am just one person and am willing to go with the flow, and I want Canpotex too, but I am worried that decisions which may endanger our health are being made without checking for reasonable mitigation options or anyone even being told what sampling should be done.

One of our members researched and reported to us:

“Dioxins and furans are sometimes called the most dangerous chemicals known to science. “Dioxin is one of the most toxic and environmentally stable tricyclic aromatic compounds of its structural class.” (Environmental Protection Agency) They are immune suppressants, cause reduced fertility and birth defects, disproportionately affect children and they may have the potential to cause cancer (Prioritization of Toxic Air Contaminants, 2001) (EPA fact sheet 1999). They are persistent, they bio-accumulate, they are toxic at extremely small amounts and, worse, there’s already too much of them. Based on measurements of body loads of dioxins and furans it is estimated that the average lifetime daily intake is 2.0 to 4.2 pg TEQs per kg of body weight per day. This is from a report by the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment which concludes, ” no increases in this exposure should be allowed.” Dioxins and Furans the Canadian Perspective, CCME. And that’s for the average Canadian. People living near pulp mills will have higher levels. And of those people, those who eat a lot of seafood will have still higher levels. Scientists believe that at the upper end of our background human exposure level there’s only a very small margin, if any, of exposure left that might be tolerable (based on animal studies) (Schecter et al, 2005).”

Luanne Roth

Marine Director

Prince Rupert Environmental Society