Hon. C. M. Drury (Minister of Industry):
As minister through whom the atomic energy control board reports to parliament, I should like to make a statement on radioactive contamination in waters in the Elliot Lake area and to reiterate the assurance given last Friday by the Prime Minister that there is no immediate hazard to the public and that adequate steps are being taken.
The question of pollution in provincial waters is of course one primarily of provincial jurisdiction, and to this end the province of Ontario has given the Ontario water resources commission the task of monitoring pollution in provincial waters. To safeguard the health of the public, the commission works in close co-operation with the Ontario department of health. Because, however, of the radioactive element in the present case the atomic energy control board has a direct interest.
Since 1957 the Ontario water resources commission has been actively engaged in carrying out investigations in the Elliot Lake area directed primarily toward minimizing the chemical and physical effects of uranium ore waste on the Serpent river watershed, and during this period has kept the atomic energy control board informed as to the
Statement on Reported Water Pollution presence and levels of radioactive elements in the waters of the area.
In order to rectify the existing situation, which has some long term dangers but no immediate hazards, the commission has been discussing with the mining companies concerned the taking of measures necessary, both in their view and in the view of the atomic energy control board, to bring about an abatement of the existing pollution. I am advised that the steps taken by the Ontario water resources commission to date and the future plans to deal with this situation are fully supported by the atomic energy control board, and further that the atomic energy control board endorses the conclusions reached by the commission and the Ontario department of health, namely that there is no immediate hazard to persons in the affected area; rather, these agencies are concerned with the possibilities of a long term-that is, many years-hazard that could develop should the situation not be brought under control at this time.
Mr. Speaker, I should like to table, for the information of hon. members, an official statement by the Ontario water resources commission outlining the steps being taken in this regard and their plans for the future.
In so far as other areas in Canada are concerned where uranium mining is being carried on, I am advised that radioactive contamination of water supplies as a consequence of these mining operations is not a problem. A recent report regarding the spreading of dust from the piles of tailings is also unduly alarmist. I am advised by the atomic energy control board that the concentration of radioactive material in this dust is so low as not to constitute a hazard to health.
On the orders of the day:
Subtopic: ELLIOT LAKE-STATEMENT ON REPORTED RADIOACTIVE POLLUTION