Beaverlodge Lake, a 57 square kilometer water body, and three other watersheds in northern Saskatchewan are seriously contaminated with uranium and selenium. Most of the contamination dates back to the 1952-1982 period when Eldorado Nuclear Ltd., a federal crown corporation, operated uranium mines and a uranium mill east of Uranium City. The Government of Canada is now making plans to transfer the mined-out properties back to the Province of Saskatchewan without completing adequate remediation and decontamination work. The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission will be asked to deem it acceptable for properties to be transferred back to Saskatchewan’s Institutional Control Program with levels of surface water contamination that are often 8 to 20 times above Saskatchewan Surface Water Quality Objectives for the Protection of Aquatic Life.
The authors suggest that the Government of Canada, having contaminated these sites, should assume full responsibility for their remediation, prior to turning the properties back to the Province of Saskatchewan. Moreover, as a matter of public policy, the Government of Saskatchewan should insist that mined-out properties be properly remediated before being returned. The authors discuss potential new technologies that could be used to remove uranium from contaminated surface waters, including Permeable Reactive Barriers. Much of the pollution has now made its way well downstream of where mining originally occurred. Thus, it is now a whole region that needs decontamination and cleanup. This is a case study in the high cost of inadequate environmental regulation.