Radiocative waste hazard in Ontario?

Appearing in the Toronto Star on May 30th is an article by Tyler Hamilton headed “Piles of poison PCB’s remain across Ontario.”  See story here

This takes me back to 1993, when I was travelling east from Toronto with a friend.  We kept to the shore of Lake Ontario as much as possible, and somewhere along the way we came to a sign by a farm gate advertising antique cars for sale.  These turned out to be mostly from the fifties, huge “bulge-mobiles” with fins on top of the fins; a real treat to see!

As we were talking with the old farmer who owned the cars, a man well into his seventies, I mentioned an Eldorado Nuclear sign I had seen back on the road, and we found ourselves discussing the subject of radioactive waste disposal. 

Back in the fifties, nuclear power plants in the States hired men to enter dangerous areas to make repairs or do other necessary work, and those workers could absorb the maximum lifetime dose of radiation in a very short period of time, as little as 30 minutes or so.  They received immense sums of money for this,  and were called “glow-boys”. 

I don’t know if that happened in Canada, but what was happening here, according to the old farmer, was that men were hired to transport tractor-trailer loads of radioactive waste into remote areas, where it was disposed of.  Essentially speaking, a huge trench was dug in advance, the trailer was backed into it, then the tractor unhooked from the trailer and departed.  Work crews would then fill in the trench, burying the trailer, and nature would do the rest. 

No records were kept, and this apparently happened many times.  The old farmer said he knew several of the drivers, men who owned their own tractors, who were very well-paid for their work.  He also said that they mostly died from cancer, some quite young, even including one who had installed a lead shield across the back of his cab.

Whether the old man was embellishing the truth or not, I don’t know.  The whole story could be a fanciful concoction, perhaps valid elsewhere but not in Ontario.  I have no idea.

But, in the worst-possible scenario, there are dozens, maybe even hundreds, of sites filled with dangerous radio-active waste buried in unknown locations throughout south-eastern Ontario, just waiting for a bulldozer’s blade to find them and open up the horrors within.  And, a “remote” area fifty or sixty years ago could well be a new sub-division today.

I have read that as a result of terrorist threats, radiation-detecting equipment has been developed that can be mounted on a helicopter and used to find radio-active “signatures” down below. 

Maybe the Province should consider using this new technology to look for radioactive “burials” in developing areas of Ontario.

Jeff Goodall

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