(Updated) Board of Health passes motion to report on potential health hazards from uranium plant at Lansdowne and Dupont

Updated April 19, 2018

By Arianne Robinson

During a motion that the city re-affirm itself as a nuclear weapons-free zone, a safety concern from an environmental activist about a local uranium processing facility developed into an additional recommendation for council: that the officer of health “provide an update on emissions to see if there are any potential health hazards from the facility at 1025 Lansdowne in Toronto.”

The motion about harmful emissions from the uranium plant on Lansdowne Avenue near Dupont Street came following a deputation brought by environmental activist Zach Ruiter.

“You have an active nuclear weapons manufacturer working with 53 per cent of all uranium used in Canada’s reactors in Toronto’s west end, and it’s spewing uranium down the drain and into the air, and the people who are living closest in the low-income housing towers and the new condos right there, they’re getting even more exposure than the rest of us.”

The company says they are in the business of supplying “nuclear fuel and fuel channel components, services, equipment and parts for the CANDU® nuclear power industry.”

A brochure on their website spells out their activities at the Toronto location: “At BWXT Nuclear Energy Canada’s (BWXT NEC) Toronto facility, we make ceramic pellets from natural uranium powder. After pressing, baking, grinding to precision size and inspecting the pellets, we send them to our facility in Peterborough where they are placed into fuel bundles for CANDU® power stations in Ontario.”

On safety, the uranium processing facility makes their Annual Compliance Reports to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) available online.

BWXT Nuclear Energy Canada Inc. was not available for comment at the time of publication but its website reads, “At BWXT Nuclear Energy Canada Inc. Toronto, we perform both continuous in-stack sampling and boundary air monitoring. Boundary samples are high volume air samples drawn at five positions around the Toronto facility perimeter.”

At the Board of Health, one councillor asked about the clustering of exposure-related illnesses.

Dr. Howard Shapiro, director healthy environments and associate medical officer of health, said Toronto Public Health worked with Ontario’s Environment Ministry previously.

“If you actually go to the site, you can see the equipment that they use to monitor the air at the perimeter of the facility.”

An article in the Toronto Star by Alex Ballingall in 2013 reported Barbara Lachapelle of the Toronto Public Health Environmental Response Team said Toronto Public Health reviews annual tests conducted by the operators of the uranium processing plant to monitor air and water emissions and soil.

Lenore Bromley, spokesperson for Toronto Public Health, confirmed staff review the results on an annual basis, but noted the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission is the regulator.

In 2012, Toronto city council requested the then-medical officer of health monitor what was then known as the GE-Hitachi facility with respect to the results and report on a regular basis, including on the Public Health website.

Board of Health member Stacey Berry commented when introducing her motion to the committee for a vote. “One of the things that we found curious, based on what the deputant raised, is are there potential health hazards? It’s worth looking into, at least.”

Berry’s motion passed, along with two others: one to support for the city’s reaffirmation of its position as a nuclear weapons-free zone and another to request the Government of Canada sign the United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.