Hazardous waste containers found in portions of St. Lawrence River


Hazardous waste containers found in portions of St. Lawrence River

CORNWALL, Ontario — The St. Lawrence River is home to more than just fish. Also found there are a significant number of hazardous waste containers, which appear to be discarded old batteries from buoys, lights and aids to navigation.According to a report from the St. Lawrence River Institute of Environmental Sciences in Cornwall, several dozen containers have been found near the shore of the Cornwall waterfront area. Mohawk Council of Akwesasne Environment staff have reportedly found more than 150 containers in deeper waters of the Upper St. Lawrence River over the last few decades, and those were removed by volunteers. They can be found both in near shore and channel areas.“I don’t know how many have been found at this point in time, but the MCA (Mohawk Council of Akwesasne) Environment Program will be looking at other possible locations to determine if there are other areas,” said Scott Peters from Mohawk Council of Akwesasne Environment.Karen Douglass Cooper, community outreach officer and remedial action plan coordinator for the St. Lawrence River Institute of Environmental Sciences, said the containers were found during recent cleanups on the river.“We do several cleanups a year on the St. Lawrence River, both in Cornwall and Akwesasne. It sort of straddles the river between three nations. We do an in-river portion of that cleanup where, especially in Cornwall, we have a dive team that does reconnaissance dives,” Ms. Cooper said.She said that for every cleanup, officials conduct about 30 dives and bring debris back up to the surface.“Last year, we inadvertently pulled up three of these things, not realizing what they were,” she said.However, she said, a senior diver was able to identify them as old navigational aid batteries.“I guess it was fairly common practice back in the day, about 40 years ago, for both the American and Canadian Coast Guards to dump them at the site. Today, they can’t do it,” Ms. Cooper said.Some of them are decades old and contain sulfuric acid, cadmium, lead, mercury and other hazardous substances.“In a lot of cases, we can’t even see the serial numbers any more because the encasement is so degraded. It is impossible to say how long it takes for these batteries to break down. Many factors come into play with regards to their degradation. However, many of these batteries have been in the water some time,” she said.A January 1971 newspaper article in the Cornwall Standard Freeholder notes that the Canadian Coast Guard had received a pollution warning from the Ontario Water Resources Commission for allegedly dumping used marine buoy batteries into the river.A Sept. 2 article in the New York Times also alleged that the United States Coast Guard had for decades dumped the toxic batteries into rivers and lakes. According to the article, the Coast Guard acknowledged that since the 1950s, as many as 100,000 dead batteries taken from lighted towers and other navigation markers, such as buoys, were dumped into the Tennessee River, the Hudson River and other waterways throughout the country.“We’re GPSing where we find them. They’re about 30 pounds, so they tend to settle,” Ms. Cooper said.They’re also working with the Canadian Coast Guard to remedy the situation.“They’re in the process of trying to come up with some kind of plan,” she said.“We will have to contact professionals in order to plan on the removal as this could be a hazardous materials cleanup,” Mr. Peters said.Ms. Cooper and Mr. Peters said anyone who finds a container should contact an appropriate agency like the U.S. or Canadian Coast Guard, Department of Environmental Conservation or the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne.“Please do not disturb them if found,” Mr. Peters said.“Here, we have a protocol now between ourselves and Akwesasne that either the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe or Mohawk Council of Akwesasne will take the information and share it with us. The U.S. has a protocol for these batteries. It’s good to contact the Coast Guard directly,” Ms. Cooper said.
Source: Watertown Daily Times Latest News
Hazardous waste containers found in portions of St. Lawrence River

No Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Comments