PCBs in DEW Line paint
National defence still hopes to bury waste in North

by Nancy Gardiner
Northern News Services

NNSL (Mar 03/97) - PCBs have been found in paint used on the DEW Line, confirms Roger Connelly, chief operating officer for the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation.

The IRC and the Department of National Defence issued a joint statement about the finding last week.

Clean-up of the DEW Line sites requires the dismantling of buildings. Wood and metal have been found coated with PCB-laden paint.

Preliminary tests show the PCBs do not leach from the paint and therefore do not pose a danger to the environment, the statement said.

However, if painted materials such as wood is burned, there is potential for the PCBs to be harmful.

As a precautionary measure, workers are wearing masks to prevent inhaling PCB paint dust.

DND has asked Environment Canada and Health Canada to review current PCB regulations in the case of paint.

The regulations forbid the burial of PCBs, which can only be destroyed in an approved incinerator. The only such facility in Canada is in Alberta, although the federal government has recently lifted a ban on the export of PCB wastes.

In the interim, materials covered in PCB paint are being stored on site in secure containers. All residents have been warned not to burn painted wood.

This summer, the clean-up moves to the Cape Parry area north of Paulatuk.

"We don't want PCBs stored in the ground if there's an environmental danger," Connelly said. "We don't want it burned if it's absorbed by people."

The IRC and DND have a co-operative agreement regarding cleanup of the sites and up to 90 per cent of the workers at the site are Inuvialuit.

The DEW Line sites are on "held in reserve" by DND and revert back to the Inuvialuit once the sites are cleaned up.

There are several options, says Connelly. They can scrape it off, burn it, bury it in a landfill or ship it out. But shipping it out would be a major expense to DND, he says.

Contracts for the project are publicly tendered. Connelly says he hopes that once the issues are addressed, the Inuvialuit will be eager to work and keep the work "at home."

"That's why there's a blanket co-operation agreement between the Inuvialuit and DND," he explained.

Tony Downes, director-general of environment with DND in Ottawa, could not be reached for comment.