Nfld. & Labrador

Black ooze at old Cold War station frightens Labrador town

Health officials have told residents of a small community on Labrador's coast to be wary of possible contamination from an abandoned military site in their midst.

Health officials have told residents of a small community on Labrador's coast to be wary of possible contamination from an abandoned military site in their midst.

Serious PCB contamination has already been identified at a Cold War-era radar station on a hill near Hopedale.

But residents are worried about pollution that is now seeping up around people's backyards.

"Drums full of tar [are] coming up, coming from under the ground," said Sabrina Pijogge, crouching over a patch of the black ooze and metal that has extruded on to the ground by the foundation of her home.

At a town hall meeting on Sunday night organized by the Newfoundland and Labrador government, residents learned more about a study on contamination near their community.

"If you're staying away from these areas and you do not collect berries in these areas, you minimize your exposure," research Astrid Michels, of the Royal Military College, told residents. She also advised people not to hunt in certain places.

The U.S. air force ran a radar station in Hopedale from 1953 to 1968, during the height of the Cold War. However, the U.S. did not clean up the site when it left.

In the 1980s, the Newfoundland and Labrador government took over the site and a dozen others, in exchange for $5 million from the federal government.

The cleanup has subsequently cost tens of millions of dollars.

"It's crazy," said Pijogge, looking at what is still creeping through the ground. "I don't know what to think of it. There's more and more tar coming from over here," she said.

The warning comes 30 years too late for some residents like Phillip Abel.

"Why didn't the government come in and do a health risk to the whole community?" Abel told Sunday night's meeting.

"You want the place up there to look good when some of the people down here may be dying of this PCB or whatever contaminant [is] in the ground," Abel said before the meeting.

This summer, the government will spend an additional $1.6 million to study the extent of the pollution. No commitments, though, have yet been made to study the health of residents.