Surrey, BC

In March 2000, the Low-Level Radioactive Waste Management Office (LLRWMO) completed the removal of low-level radioactive waste from two industrial sites (one at Anvil Way and the other at CN’s Thornton Yard) in Surrey, B.C. The project required the cooperation and approval of the community, all levels of government, and regulatory authorities in Canada and the United States.

The contamination resulted from the import of niobium ore during the 1970s. This ore naturally contained radioactive thorium, which remained after smelting operations. Thorium-contaminated slag was inadvertently mixed with sand and gravel and used as fill on the Anvil Way site. In 1984, the federal government took responsibility for the removal and disposal of this waste, and the LLRWMO assumed responsibility for the removal and interim storage of the contaminated material.  In 1985, the LLRWMO moved most of the waste to a storage bunker on the Anvil Way site and, a year later, CN built a similar storage bunker for the Thornton Yard waste. The LLRWMO removed about 5000 m3 of thorium-contaminated soil and slag from Anvil Way. This waste was then transported in 350 securely covered truckloads to Oregon (U.S.) facility for a long-term management. The waste was not considered radioactive under federal Transportation of Dangerous Goods regulations. Since the waste at CN`s Thornton Yard site was not compatible with the Oregon facility (and was considered radioactive under federal Transportation of Dangerous Goods regulations), the contaminated slag from the storage bunker was packaged in 83, one-cubic-metre, metal boxes. This waste was then transported by train and truck to the LLRWMO’s licensed storage facilities at Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL)’s Chalk River Laboratories in Chalk River, Ontario.

“This initiative resolves a long-standing environmental concern in Surrey. Its success is owed in part to the active involvement of the public in finding promising solutions.”

The Honourable Ralph Goodale, former Minister of Natural Resources Canada, March 2000

In the search for a disposal solution, the federal Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources (now Natural Resources Canada (NRCan)) appointed the Surrey Siting Task Force (SSTF), an independent group. The SSTF followed a cooperative siting process guided by the principle of voluntary community participation in the decision-making process. After failing to find an appropriate site in B.C. and Alberta, the SSTF successfully negotiated an agreement to dispose of the Anvil Way waste at a commercial facility in Oregon. Following acceptance by the federal government of this recommendation, the SSTF ceased operation in November 1999.

 During the Surrey Project, the LLRWMO, on behalf of NRCan, worked closely with the Surrey Project Public Affairs Office (SPPAO) conducting an extensive public consultation and environmental assessment. Throughout the Project, both the LLRWMO and the SPPAO maintained communications with the property owner, neighbouring industries, U.S. border officials, the federal and provincial governments, local citizens, local Members of Parliament and the media.

“The project clearly demonstrates the federal government’s commitment to a public participation process. We are grateful that it has been completed without adverse impacts to public health and safety.”

Dr. David Boyes, Chair, Surrey Siting Task Force, March 2000

After the removal of the Anvil Way waste, gamma radiation and soil samples were analyzed to ensure that project cleanup criteria was achieved, and the site was backfilled and restored. Gamma radiation readings were also taken at the Thornton Yard site. Radiation levels at both sites were typical of those found in the region, posing no health risk. The project received the cooperation of the B.C. Ministry of Health and the B.C. Ministry of Environment, Land and Parks.