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Reports > Lessons Learned Table of Contents > Executive Summary >
> Introduction > Methods > Case Studies > Deloro, Ontario


3.1 Deloro, Ontario

3.2.1 Brief History
3.2.2 Nature and Level of Community Involvement
3.2.3 Community Involvement in Health Studies,         Environmental Monitoring and Choice of Remedial         Options
3.2.4 Current Status
3.2.5 Lessons Learned

3.1.1 Brief History

The Deloro site, in southern Ontario, is located in the Moira River watershed, which flows to the Bay of Quinte on Lake Ontario. Between 1886 and1899, Deloro was a gold mining and smelting operation (with high concentrations of arsenic removal). During this time, there were five successive mining companies at the site (Gatling/Gold and Silver Mining Company, Canada Consolidated Gold Mining Company, Hastings Mining and Reduction Company, Canadian Goldfields Ltd., and Atlas Arsenic).3 In the 1900s, radioactive waste from Eldorado Nuclear in Port Hope was brought to the site and processed for cobalt.4 M. J. O’Brian (CP Rail) was responsible for the evolution of Deloro from silver and cobalt smelting to stellite research and production. The company also diverged into chemical production and became a major manufacturer of arsenic pesticides. Deloro Stellite moved to Belleville in 1961. Ownership of the Deloro site was transferred to Erickson Construction in 1970,5 who subsequently abandoned the site in 1979 following a clean-up order from Ontario Ministry of Energy and Environment (MOEE).6 A number of residents told us that a red tailings flood from the site occurred in 1978 or 79, although MOEE has no record of it. In 1979, MOEE invoked Section 99 of the Environmental Protection Act and became responsible for, and manager of, the site.7

Aerial photographs of the early years of the mining operation show a deforested circumference around Deloro caused by smelter stack emissions. Arsenic dust emitted from the stack and blown from waste piles was also high in other metals and radioactive materials.

The town of Deloro is in close proximity to the contaminated area, and although the operation has long since shut down, there continues to be residual contamination in town originating from the deposition of stack emissions and dust. During the years of smelter operation, local residents couldn’t hang laundry out due to deposition of stack soot that was high in metals.

When the mine was in operation, immigrant workers had the worst jobs, but the health and safety of all Deloro workers was compromised by the high levels of metals (particularly lead and arsenic) and radioactive materials. The broader community was also affected. Between 1953 and 1957, there was a high incidence of respiratory cancer and three deaths.8 In 1974, the number of Hastings County deaths from cancer and lung disease was 119% greater than the provincial average.9 According to the Care Delivery Network Project, cancer rates and birth abnormalities in the area remain high in Hastings County.10

The site has had environmental problems as a result of dam instability and overflow of tailings (especially with spring freshet). Water and sediment of the Moira River, Young’s Creek and wetlands have been known for their contamination since the 1960s, when MOEE Water Resources Commission analyzed samples that were high in arsenic. Community members report that Young’s Creek valley was red and the creek ran red in the 1950s and 60s. Also in the 1960s, dead fish were removed from Moira Lake shores daily, and cows died from drinking the water of Moira River. Sampling in 1970 found, in addition to the metals and radioactive materials, toxic compounds from chemical plant, PCBs, bulk fuel, and herbicides.

Both the town of Deloro and the surrounding areas have been affected economically by the contamination. For example, in Deloro, property values have been adversely affected, and declining tax revenues have affected town services in Deloro. Amalgamation forced the closure of the town office, and public access to the Library and Community Centre have been affected. Tourism at Moira Lake has declined. There have, however, been some jobs created related to remediation (e.g., jobs in water treatment, heavy equipment operation, and some regional consulting work).

The Deloro mine site is 650 acres,11 and is divided into four areas for clean-up and closure: 1) industrial area (smelter, refinery, research and chemical laboratories); 2) red mud tailings; 3) Young’s Creek; and 4) former mining areas.

The Ministry of Northern Development and Mines (MNDM) is usually responsible for mining-related sites, but MOEE took over in 1979 and has continued to take the lead. In the 1980s, MOEE installed a water treatment facility, which reduced arsenic levels by 80%.

Clean-up costs of Deloro are currently estimated at $25 million. Remediation activities to date include: hazardous waste disposal; upgrading of the arsenic treatment plant; capping shafts; and demolishing smelting and refining infrastructure. Seventeen million dollars has already been spent. The National Contaminated Site Remediation Program contributed $1 million for capping shafts.

Since radioactive material is regulated under federal legislation, any further clean-up at Deloro will require a federal environmental assessment (EA).12 (The province was previously exempted from conducting an EA.) This new federal EA requirement could cause between a two to five-year delay in remediation activities, and it could cost as much as $500 000 to carry out the requirements of the EA process.

3.1.2 Nature and Level of Community Involvement

Deloro has not been in operation since 1961. Since that time, there has been increasing awareness about the extent and nature of the contaminants from the Deloro site, and concern over the ongoing impacts to health and the environment.

Legal action has been taken in an effort to have the site cleaned up and to receive compensation for damage to health and property values. When Ted Galloway, a worker who drove radioactive material from Port Hope, died of lung cancer, his wife was given compensation. Many say there should be compensation for the lost health of the workers and their families as well. More recently, three court cases have created pressure to have a more transparent process for community involvement in decisions made about remediation of Deloro:

1) In 1998, a class action suit was initiated for $55 million in damages plus legal costs against MOEE, MNDM, Ministry of Health, Attorney General of Canada, Canada Eldor Inc., Atomic Energy Control Board, and BOC Canada Ltd. The volunteer commitment to this case has been extensive, at 40 hours per week for three years, and has brought together a number of Deloro residents to express their concerns.

2) In 1997, the Environmental Bureau of Investigations (EBI) charged the Ontario government for allowing damage to fish habitat, based on sample analysis conducted by an independent community group. The Attorney General took over prosecution of this court case in 1999. The EBI court case ended in 2001, and MOEE was found to have demonstrated due diligence during the timeframe of charges.

3) In 1998, the Environmental Bureau of Investigations (EBI) charged the Ontario government for "unlawfully discharging/permitting the discharge of a contaminant (radon) into the natural environment", this happened to be on the site of Ted Galloway’s house in Deloro village. This case was withdrawn following the 2001 decision on the case outlined in 2 above since the problem pre-dated MOEE involvement.

Public Liaison Committee meetings were suspended during the period June 1999 to March 2001 for the ministry to focus its efforts on the court case.

Contamination in Deloro has been prevalent for a long time. Children used to play on arsenic piles. It was expressed that some community members have “blinders on,” as they don’t want to admit that they brought up their children in contamination that could harm them. Many Deloro residents, however, remain concerned that their health is being compromised by the unremediated site. They watch any government intervention to see if there is cause for concern, and their fear was heightened when workers came to fix a gas line wearing hazard suits to do the excavation work. There are concerns, as well, because when ground is dug up in Deloro it is disposed on-site as hazardous waste (but only once it is disturbed). MOEE says that the material is not hazardous, but is just solid waste, and that the hazard suits are required by a ministry protocol established to prevent the spread of contamination in the environment by managing excess material from construction/utility related activities.

Many community members want the opportunity to relocate if the remediation fails to address their health concerns in a timely manner. Others don’t give credence to the possibility of health impacts and want to stop talking about it so that property values will recover.

The first Environmental Assessment Act exemption for MOEE was received in 1981, and included conditions to keep the public informed. In 1992, the concept of a public liaison committee was documented but not initiated until 1997. In 1998, MOEE was further exempted from the requirement to conduct an Environmental Assessment of its remediation (using the Security Account Project Exemption). Furthermore, to expedite the clean-up, MOEE - after discussions with the Public Liaison Committee and a posting on the Environmental Bill of Rights Registry - was exempted from the formal public hearing process, with the understanding that the Ministry would consult with stakeholders.

Top Public Liaison Committee Membership

In 1997, MOEE initiated a public process to involve government and community members in the Deloro remediation project. There are three project liaison groups: The Technical Liaison Committee and the MOEE Technical Committee, both of which are made up of government members, and the Public Liaison Committee, which has community member representation.13

Members of the Technical Liaison Committee represent any municipal, provincial or federal agency that is involved in permitting aspects of the remediation project (the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans and Environment Canada, the provincial ministries of Natural Resources, Northern Development, Environment and Labour, the Coast Guard and Quinte Conservation Authority, Atomic Energy Canada, Ontario Clean Water Agency).14 The MOEE Technical Committee members are from internal departments of MOEE and they provide technical advice and help with regulatory requirements. These committees operate independently with the facilitation of a consultant.

The initial convening session of the Public Liaison Committee (PLC) was by invitation to selected community members from MOEE. Reeves and councillors of the watershed were asked to attend and to provide suggestions for potential committee members. MOEE selected initial members, but anyone can attend PLC meetings. Many of the participants are senior members of the community, which does not represent a broad cross-section of the community diversity. Some members interviewed felt they were encouraged to participate and felt no resistance, while others with dissenting views were not told when the meetings were to be held, and media were not allowed to come to initial meetings.

There has been some turnover of membership. It can be difficult for newcomers to get up to speed on the issues, and there is no process to help in this regard. Recent meetings seem less well attended, which has been attributed to a variety of factors including lack of trust in the health and environmental studies and the resulting conflict among the committee members. Others feel that their input does not have a direct link to technical decisions and the review of remedial options – a sense that is confirmed, since they see very few results. Some feel the committee is functioning reasonably with no resistance. Public Liaison Committee Structure, Funding and Protocols

The Public Liaison Committee (PLC) was initiated in 1997, with a consultant to guide the process. The consultant has remained a part of the process. The cost for the consultant, which is paid by MOEE, is approximately $10,000 per meeting. Volunteer expenses for the PLC are not paid, but some of the reeves and councillors attend as part of their job.

Meetings are held quarterly, with the technical meeting during the day and PLC meeting in the evening. PLC meetings are open to the public but are not advertised. The minutes of the meetings can be obtained if requested.

Time commitment for PLC members averages five hours per month, and this includes the review of materials and attendance at the meetings. A bigger time commitment, however, is required when reports are being prepared and reviewed. In contrast, community members who oppose the PLC process have been working towards solutions as though it were a full-time job. Technical Liaison Committee members, meanwhile, contribute approximately four days per year.

The PLC meetings are chaired by a MOEE staff member (appointed by MOEE), who works with the consultant to conduct the meetings. Many are concerned that this appointment is a conflict of interest, since MOEE is currently responsible for the impacts related to the site. Most view the chair not as neutral or unbiased, but rather, the chair is seen as controlling the process. Many suggested that an independent chair would be more appropriate and would greatly improve the credibility of the process.

Uncertainty around the accountability of the chair has led to unrest within the PLC. For example, conflicts arose when outspoken environmentalists felt their concerns were not being addressed. Some viewed the environmentalists as outsiders meddling in the process, and this brought about negative feelings and diminished trust. At another meeting, media and a range of community members addressed the chair with their concerns about the lack of accountability. It was subsequently decided that future conflicts of this nature would be resolved by appointing a chair at that meeting, so that the MOEE staff person will not have to chair a conflict in which he is implicated.

The PLC is supposed to be a forum for ongoing dialogue and information sharing, a means to provide a sounding board for MOEE, and a formal process for feedback from the community. Roles for the committee were discussed at the first meeting in June 1997 and again in 2001, but many involved describe that the aims and objectives for the PLC are not clearly defined. Many past and present members consider that the primary objective of PLC is to allay public fear – a publicity gesture aimed to decrease the explosive potential of the situation. The PLC is set up for presentations and taking comments, not for listening and responding to public concerns early on. Some say the PLC is “an absolute waste of time,” set up to make announcements with a “do nothing attitude.” Government representatives, on the other hand, say there is community input at every stage in an open process.

Decisions are made by consensus rather than formal votes. Many members say no decisions are actually made by the PLC members. Others say that this is because there are no decisions to be made, since there are never finalized remediation plans. There is no process for making resolutions or recommendations. This lack of formal structure for making resolutions and decisions limits community trust that their input is being adequately considered. Added to these concerns are uncertainties around the accountability of the consultant and MOEE staff chair, and their ability to ensure that community priorities and outcomes are addressed in the technical committees.

There is no direct contact between PLC and the technical committees. Instead, the consultant and MOEE staff act as intermediaries between the committees. In 1998, the PLC asked for a joint meeting with the Technical Committee but this has not happened to date. Recommendations from the PLC are passed on to the Technical Committee through the MOEE staff and consultant. The consultant then builds a decision matrix based on input from all three committees. It has been indicated that technical decisions are twisted to make it appear like they reflect community priorities, but that they are actually decided in advance of the PLC input.

There have been some problems getting the message out to the broader community, although when received, communication materials have been described as useful and accessible. MOEE communications staff prepared a web site, fact sheets, and update bulletins. Studies are available in the libraries. Some of the documents have been delivered door-to-door. There is an ongoing process to explain technical information in plain language. Some say the glossy technical reports are easy to understand but not very credible. Meanwhile, technical reports on the health study were presented in charts and graphs that were difficult to understand. The conclusions didn’t seem to correspond with the sample analysis, and the data were not well explained.

In summary, the court case has been somewhat effective at opening up the process and increasing transparency. Some of the structural problems with the PLC are getting better, but people still have little trust in the process. The process needs broader support as discussions are still based, too much on conflict instead of collaboration. An iterative process is time-consuming but is necessary to build trust; otherwise the public remains skeptical and won’t be convinced by the data provided.


3.1.3 Community Involvement in Health Studies, Environmental Monitoring and Choice of Remedial Options

A survey was sent out by the local municipal council to its constituency to determine main concerns and what action the community members wanted. There was a high level of response to the survey, but the council has not yet acted on the results.

Trent University study groups have conducted a variety of studies and monitoring over time. In response to community concerns, a meeting was convened at Trent University to discuss the results of their studies. Other topics discussed included contamination and effects associated with contamination. The meeting included academics, researchers, community members, and MOEE staff (and was funded by academic sources).

There have been numerous environmental monitoring and health risk studies conducted in the Deloro area, and a selection of these are discussed below. Some of these have presented conflicting information, leaving many community members worried, confused, and lacking trust in the data.

There is low-level radiation found for miles in circumference around Deloro, but many community members describe frustration that the full details for current monitoring activities and results are not publicly available. The Deloro Village Environmental Health Risk Study (1999) is in various libraries around the area. When this study reported low-level radioactive slag in the village, steps were taken by the provincial government to remove this material to the Deloro mine site, but the community does not have access to follow up monitoring activities. Deformed frogs and genetically damaged plants have been found in the area, which raises concerns about the radiation levels. Also, lower plant species diversity (3-5 types instead of 70) is thought to be a result of contamination impacts.

A 1986 MOEE survey shows an average of 723 ppm arsenic in Deloro soils (and the extent of radioactivity was also determined). It was a technical report prepared for monitoring and abatement of arsenic in Moira River. Some say the results of this study were clearly conclusive of the levels of contamination, but that the study was buried. Similarly, in 1980, analysis showed high radiation in slag and waste piles, and 700 ppm arsenic in Moira Lake sediment.

In 1998, the Moira River study provided invitations to 600 people in the study area to review the draft report. It was presented in an open house and comments were received as community members reviewed results. Public consultation was conducted in 2000, and the report was released in 2001. Results of the study determined no adverse affect on aquatic life or residents’ health. Community members questioned the interpretation of the results – which claimed there was no adverse effect – when fish health and reproduction had decreased, and there were high metal concentrations in the sediments. It was felt that it was not a very credible interpretation of the data. There was a public advisory committee for this project but it didn’t meet very often and didn’t meet before the results were announced publicly.

Health risk studies have been met with similar community concern.

In 1998, MOEE initiated the Deloro Health Risk Study. The Public Liaison Committee asked for off-site contamination to be investigated. A Health Study Committee was struck, comprised of a subcommittee of PLC and additional participants chosen to cover a more specific mandate. The committee met five times. A total of 90% of the community members participated in the study. Most said the study did not involve the community members well enough in devising questions, or determining the approach and priorities for the study. For example, some wanted plant uptake to be analyzed from their garden foods, since high levels of arsenic have been found in gardens in Deloro. Test analysis comparing plant uptake of some vegetables planted in Deloro as compared to typical Ontario soil had been conducted. Some thought the resultant methodology to be unclear.

In 1999, the Ministry of Health and the County Health Unit conducted the health study. The local people and MOEE representatives have different versions of how this study was conducted. Urine was sampled for arsenic, but this gives only a very short-term view of contamination. Hair samples give a longer-term view of exposure to arsenic, but were not taken as part of the study. There are conflicting views on the most appropriate analysis methods for long-term environmental exposure as compared to short-term exposure in the work place. Some also said samples were taken at the wrong time of year to show greatest exposure. Similarly, some interviewees said dust samples were initially collected from high up in houses in December, which does not provide an indication of the highest possible exposure (since December is not the dustiest time of the year), but MOEE reps said the "swipe samples of interior surface dust were collected from areas which would not likely be cleaned on a regular basis…sampling was completed during dry and dusty conditions. Outdoor air and dust samples were also collected and evaluated." A follow-up study using vacuum collection in the summer showed much higher arsenic and other metal levels.

The health study focused on a moment in time and has been criticized for ignoring past contamination from living near or working on the site (no family history was discussed). No past residents were surveyed, nor were death records compiled from those who moved out of the area. Further, some were concerned that it ignored future exposure that could happen as a result of drinking water, dust, or food contamination as it was based on an assumption that the site conditions would not change.

The health study found no significant health risk for total exposure. The summary indicates that the village is contaminated but safe. But, thirty properties were heavily contaminated. Some were told to wear gloves and a mask while gardening. The findings did little to allay the fears of the community. Some community members were skeptical of the “no significant health risk” findings, and saw the subsequent publication of guidelines for fish consumption and a warning not to drink the water near the mine site as confirmation of their fears. The MOEE explanation for these warnings is illustrative of the chasm separating the realities inhabited by the affected community and government bureaucracies, "The Deloro Village Environmental Health Risk Study did not address at fish consumption as it is a non-issue in this study. The Moira River Study looked a fish in detail and confirmed that the existing fish consumption guidelines…are appropriate. These guidelines are published …every two years. Fish consumption advice has been provided to anglers in Ontario since 1977. No drinking water warnings were issued with respect to the Deloro Village Health Risk Study; however, a drinking water reminder was issued with respect to the Moira River Study for people who lie between the mine site and the outlet of Moira Lake and take river or lake water for drinking without treatment."

The study was peer reviewed, although some of the reviewers couldn’t get the review done in time, due to the very short timeline for comments. The Deloro Health Risk Study was released in July with one day’s notice to those most affected. This did not provide them with adequate time to review the results before the public meeting. Some felt that the health study was intended to put a rosy picture out before the court case, so the study may have been rushed to get the results out in time. MOEE maintains that their efforts to release the results as quickly as possible stemmed from requests of the PLC, the sub-committee of residents and the community. Many community members were skeptical of the results, of MOEE, and of the process. It has been suggested that funding should be made available to have independent verification and analysis of study results. A reserve fund should be available to choose studies reflecting community priorities. It would help to have independent experts who have been mutually agreed upon. Community members have to live with the results presented because they can’t afford to get their own analysis (but don’t actually trust the results and interpretations presented).

Remedial work to date has included the capping of shafts; a site survey; covering of tailings; filling mine shafts; fence building; and, in the 1980s, the building of a water treatment facility that reduced arsenic by 80%. Some community members expressed concern that waste materials had been deposited in the shafts. Community members feel they have been informed of these actions rather than involved in the decisions.

MOEE is diligently following the public process and expresses general support for active community involvement in the Deloro remediation project. It is felt by MOEE that more data are needed before a remediation plan can be created. Some say the studies (36 different reports) aren’t well integrated, so it is difficult to arrive at conclusions. Additionally, the process doesn’t provide adequate means for community involvement to help guide in the interpretation of the study results. Most now feel that there is a need to commit to a remediation plan. The remediation plan keeps being delayed, first by process and studies, then by the court case, and now by the federal EA. As one citizen claimed, “it is time to get the job done and get out of here.”

3.1.4 Current Status

MOEE is close to estimating the cost of clean-up. But not much has happened over the last two years – only minimal containment and treatment.

MOEE is committed to funding the clean-up by “default,” with little resources committed by industry or federal funds. There are, however, no funding guarantees (although budgets are planned on a three- to five-year timeline). Consequently, many community members have little confidence that there will be enough funds committed and available for a full clean-up of the site.

Community members are concerned that the site might become zoned as a hazardous waste site, which would allow a variety of contaminants to be brought in from outside communities.

It is anticipated that the PLC will be scaled back when remediation is actually started.

The federal environmental assessment is ongoing. There is a priority need to remediate radioactive material.

3.1.5 Lessons Learned

The chair must be chosen to be accountable to all and fully independent. Conflicts within the process cannot be adequately resolved without an unbiased chair.

A lack of a structure for providing resolutions from the Public Liaison Committee to the Technical Committees gives the appearance that the process is not transparent. Furthermore, it makes it appear that the decision-makers are not accountable to the PLC when determining remedial options. This limits trust in the process, and community members are less likely to have confidence in reports and decisions.

Community involvement from the outset can help set priorities for use of available financial resources. Some community members may prefer to be given the opportunity to be relocated (rather than live with the ongoing potential health impacts), than to have money allocated for certain remedial options.

An iterative process is time-consuming but is necessary to build trust; otherwise the public remains skeptical and won’t be convinced by the data provided.

Funds should be made available to community members so they can gain clear technical information and independent verification. This could increase both the credibility of health and monitoring reports and community confidence in the results.  


Last updated: 2003-09-26

© National Orphaned/Abandoned Mines Initiative (NOAMI) 2004