Contaminants found on site
Fire released dioxins at radar station

Maria Canton
Northern News Services

Cambridge Bay (Feb 28/00) - A plume of hazardous contaminants has been found in the area surrounding a radar site that burned for five days last month on Victoria Island.

Preliminary environmental test results, conducted by military scientists, have revealed high levels of cancer-causing agents, hydrocarbons and glycols.

"Dioxins are a recognized carcinogen and are the most dangerous part of PCBs. In the ash (from the fire) we found 60 ppt (parts per trillion) of dioxins and the guideline is one ppt," said Tony Downs, director general environment for the Department of National Defence.

Concentrations of 235 ppt of dioxins were found in the snow. When PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) burn at low temperatures, dioxins and furons are given off.

"A fire of this nature is considered to burn at a low temperature," said Downs.

Because of high winds during the week of the fire, samples of snow, ash, soil, paint and debris taken from the area surrounding the destroyed radar station revealed the contaminants to be in an area extending up to 40 kilometres southeast of the site and five kilometres northwest.

"Outside of the plume area, tests showed very few contaminants and in some cases, nothing at all," said Downs.

The area, which is dotted with camps and outpost cabins, is well-used by residents of Kugluktuk.

It is also home to caribou, muskox, foxes, some grizzly bears, seals, some belugas and migratory birds.

The president of the Kitikmeot Inuit Association, Charlie Evalik, says they are very concerned about animals passing through the area, but are waiting for DND's final environmental report.

"We just received an update last week and we've written to DND telling them they have to address our concerns," said Evalik.

"We are very concerned and we've asked DND to do further studies on the animals, but we are waiting for the final report."

Evalik said DND will be posting signs in the area warning of the contaminants and that KIA will conduct an independent review of the final report.

Other contaminants found in the snow and ash around the site include levels of glycols at 1,600 parts per million, the standard is 700 ppm and levels of hydrocarbons at 35 ppm in the snow -- DND doesn't have guidelines for hydrocarbons or dioxins found in snow.