Elliot Lake families heading to court to fight for cleanup of mining waste 

By Rosalind Russell – The Canadian Environmental Law Association and Blaise Law have served the federal government with an application for judicial review of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission’s recent decision denying some Elliot Lake families’ request to clean up radioactive uranium mine waste rock found beneath their homes. 
Legal counsel Kerrie Blaise says the families are seeking an order from the court declaring the decision as unlawful and unreasonable. 

She explains earlier this summer, the families requested the commission issue orders to test the properties and mandate mining company BHP, formerly Rio Algom, to remove the mine waste and place it as a licensed site.   

She says the applicants are arguing ‘the commission is not relieved of its regulatory authority for oversight of uranium mine waste rock’ and has failed to ‘address or acknowledge expert evidence’ filed by the applicants, showing they have been exposed to radiation up to 15 times the allowable public dose limits.  

Blaise adds the decision from the court will be key in ensuring Canada’s nuclear regulator upholds its statutory duty to protect human health and the environment from nuclear substances. 

 Blaise says the uranium mine waste rock found at the families’ homes, located primarily in the driveways, and buried by the foundations, is the result of construction practices in the 1960s, where mine waste rock from now-closed uranium mine wastes was used in the town as fill.  

 She adds this waste decays to radium, radon, and radon progeny, and can cause serious health risks, especially if radon gases accumulate indoors. 

 She says the families continue to encourage members of the public who wish to support their call for a clean up to write to the commission.   

Photo: Some families in Elliot Lake have launched a legal review for radioactive waste to be cleaned up under their homes. Photo by City of Elliot Lake.

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