First Nation blocks trucks carrying debris from old radar site

The Ministry of Natural Resources acted quickly to deal with a blockade on a winter road near Fort Severn First Nation.

An inspector from Thunder Bay dispatched to address Fort Severn's concerns about hazardous material

Fort Severn First Nation community members stopped trucks carrying hazardous material from an old radar site near Peawanuk this week. They were worried loads hadn't been checked to ensure they were safely contained before passing through the commmunity. (Supplied by Fort Severn First Nation)

The Ministry of Natural Resources acted quickly to deal with a blockade on a winter road near Fort Severn First Nation.

This week, community members have been stopping trucks carrying hazardous material from Site 500, a decommissioned military radar site near Peawanuk. They were worried loads hadn't been checked to ensure they were safely contained.

Michael Cartan, who oversees the radar site cleanup for the MNR, said an inspector from Thunder Bay has now been sent to check loads.

Cartan noted the incident shows how important it is for contractors — in this case, Sanexen Environmental Services — to consult with communities.

"I would put it under the category of Good Neighbour Policy," Cartan said.

"You want to be talking to communities as you're bringing material through. There have been some discussions, but perhaps the discussions that have occurred have not been as effective as they could have been. And that's why we're in the situation which we are [in] right now, [and we’re] trying to improve that in really short notice."

Concern about what's being hauled by trucks

Cartan said he spoke on Tuesday to Fort Severn First Nation Chief Matthew Kakekaspan about his concerns. Kakekaspan said he wanted the loads of material inspected before the trucks went through the community of Fort Severn.

In a previous interview, Kakekaspan said the community was "concerned about the loads they're carrying. We understand that a lot of the stuff they're carrying is debris, like contaminated soil."

At the Chief’s suggestion, the ministry has "hired an engineering consulting company out of Thunder Bay that the community has worked with before," Cartan said.

"[The company] will conduct the inspections on the ... materials on the trucks before they go through the community. We've also asked that there be a member from the Fort Severn First Nation there as well ... as an assistant to this engineering company who can be trained in the inspection procedures."    

During the blockade, Cartan said he believes a total of nine trucks were stopped. He said the inspector will deal with those trucks immediately. After that, Sanexen will need to work with Fort Severn to come to an agreement on how to handle the rest of the loads. Cartan added the ministry has been clear in directing Sanexen to communicate with communities along its trucking route to the safe disposal site in Manitoba.

The CBC tried to reach the Quebec-based transportation contractor on Wednesday, but did not get a response.