Thunder Bay

Fort Severn First Nation works with MNR to clean up radar site

The Ministry of Natural Resources is turning its attention to Fort Severn as it continues to clean up Cold War-era radar sites.
The ongoing radar site cleanup by the Ministry of Natural Resources continues in Fort Severn. Pictured here is a "before" photo. See "after" picture below. (Ministry of Natural Resources)

The Ministry of Natural Resources is turning its attention to Fort Severn as it continues to clean up Cold War-era radar sites.

The early-warning system was decommissioned decades ago, but a cluster of five sites remains contaminated with toxic material and littered with debris and derelict buildings.

MNR project co-ordinator Dave Etheridge said Fort Severn First Nation is anxious to see hazardous material removed from its traditional territory.

A once-contaminated radar site after remediation. (Ministry of Natural Resources)

“[The sites were] just left.  There wasn't the proper care to containerize or to ensure any of this material was protected from the environment,” he said.

“The barrels have disintegrated and there has been fuel that's leaked into the soil.”

Etheridge said there are four risk factors at the old radar sites: metals, PCBs, hydrocarbon contamination (including old oil and gas), and a "slight chance there might be some pesticides."

Cleanup in final stages

The remediation of the radar sites brings other benefits to First Nations as well.

Etheridge said “there has been very high First Nations involvement" throughout the project as the ministry has often contracted First Nations companies to do the cleanup.

He added that about 70-75 per cent of the workforce involved with remediation involves First Nations people.

Etheridge said the sites were built during the 1950s, and were operational until 1965.

"They were basically left as-is," said Etheridge. "And in the late 60s, the responsibility for these sites came back to the Crown."

He said the cleanup project is in its final stage. Projected to take six years, it's now in year five.


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