Northern Life, Greater Sudbury’s community newspaper, gave Republic of Mining.com permission to post Bill Bradley’s article. www.northernlife.ca
“This study is in no way associated to the previous 100 years of health risks and exposures from the 100 million tons of pollutants our historical Sudbury citizens faced and the effects it might have caused, which citizens personally live with today.” Rick Grylls President, Local 598/CAW Sudbury Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers Union
The debate is not over. Comments regarding the Sudbury Soil Study are still coming in. Rick Grylls, Sudbury Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers Union, Local 598/CAW president, released a 13-page letter earlier this month disputing the study’s terms of reference.
“I was informed that the technical committee, the decision making body of the Sudbury Soil Study, discussed my letter at their last meeting on Thursday,” said Grylls.
According to Grylls, the real flaw in the Sudbury Soil Study is that the terms of reference for the research were already set before union representatives were able to participate in the study as observers.
“The questions we would have liked to be part of the study did not get included. By narrowing down questions, you can reach pre-concluded answers. We only viewed a small fraction of the actual work process and material at the public hearings and observed no working committee hearings.”
That meant the study looked at the current conditions in the Sudbury area. The study focused on future risk and predicted little hazard of health effects on Sudbury residents associated with metals in the environment.
However, “This study is in no way associated to the previous 100 years of health risks and exposures from the 100 million tons of pollutants our historical Sudbury citizens faced and the effects it might have caused, which citizens personally live with today,” Grylls noted.
Franco Mariotti, independent process observer for the Sudbury Soil Study, said he has a problem with these allegations.
“We just had no access to proper data from the past. To discover the mechanisms — how contamination occurs — you need a data set from the past so as to compare. We just do not have that. So it was decided early-on to focus on data from where we are at today,” said Mariotti.
Chris Wren, director of the SARA Group, which conducted the work of the Sudbury Soil Study, said because of the lack of good historical data, any conclusions from past exposures would be speculation. “Yes, we knew emissions were higher so we can say that 40 years ago there would be a higher risk for citizens,” he said.
Mariotti agreed. “I grew up in Copper Cliff myself, but there are no records of what my blood contained 40 years ago. If people are that concerned, they are advised to meet with their doctors to have their blood tested,” said Mariotti.
Another allegation in the letter by Grylls is that union representatives were shut out of the last four months of meetings by the technical committee.
“I have been at every meeting all along and I can say that there has been no union representation on the technical committee for the last year-and-a-half,” said Mariotti.
Chris Wren, director of the SARA Group, which conducted the work of the Sudbury Soil Study, agreed he had not seen union reps for some time.
“The last four months of the process were comprised of individual meetings involving technical committee members. That was because the decision making process was stuck on a few issues related to individual members,” said Mariotti.
However, Homer Seguin, a retired union health and safety representative, said that key decisions were being made at these meetings such as how much credence should be given to lead levels. “I know they had a bunch of disagreements, but they should have been open to union representation,” said Seguin.
Grylls says the area continues to be polluted from fugitive chemicals of concern and sulphuric acid from the three smelter sites, from uncontrolled emissions from converter isles, furnaces, unprotected custom feed, and tailing waste and slag piles, exported by vehicles, wind and the rain off the mining properties.
Today citizens can rejoice the pollution levels are much lower, said Grylls, but more needs to be done.
For starters, he would like to see a truly independent health audit of the citizens of Sudbury done by the Sudbury and District Health Unit, funded by the companies.
The full text of the Grylls letter is available at www.minemill598.com. Homer Seguin will be releasing a ten-point letter of recommendations himself.
Citizens have until July 31 to send their comments to the Sudbury Soil Study. Phone 1-866-315-0228 or visit http://www.sudburysoilsstudy.com/. com.
Homer Seguin, retired union health and safety representative, has an article by J.O. Nriagu et al in The Science of the Environment 223 (1998). The paper looked at how the distribution and chemical behaviour of trace metals was carried out in the water, suspended particles and sediments of area lakes in 1978, 1979, 1993 and 1994.
One common element of the lakes studied was a high level of dissolved copper, lead, zinc and nickel. Levels in some lakes declined over the study period,. In others, such as Clearwater and Lohi Lakes in the city’s south end, concentrations of zinc, for example, remained constant.
The paper also noted that Sudbury area soils, especially those that become acidified, “become readily saturated with pollutant metals, resulting in increased leakage of metals to soil solution and surface waters.”
This creates toxic conditions for plants, resulting in further toxic accumulations in them and their consumers. The authors state that the saturation of ecosystems with pollutant metals is not well understood in the scientific literature.
Seguin said the article has 30 references, indicating that the seriousness of metal contamination in the Sudbury area is more serious than the Sudbury Soil Study has presented. Chris Wren, director of the Sara Group, the organization that undertook the work of the Sudbury Soil Study, was aware of the work of Nriagu, and said he would look up the article.
“The next report, the ecological risk assessment, will look at the accumulation of the metals in the landscape,” said Wren.