Ouje-Bougoumou faces a danger of getting contaminated by Chapais’s proposed new dump, says Chief Abel Bosum.
The dump will import garbage from the South, including toxic and industrial waste.
“If there is any contamination, we will be affected,” said Bosum in an interview.
The proposed dump will be located at the site of the old Minova mine. Bosum said several creeks pass right by the mine and empty out into Lake Opemiska.
The current of the lake is such that any contamination which enters it from the creeks would likely be swept toward O.J., which sits on the lake’s shore, said Bosum.
Bosum added that no environmental study has been done on possible impact of such contamination or that took into account the other concerns of Crees.
Quebec Deputy Environment Minister Jean Provonost approved the dump, which will be privately run, in a May 1 letter. Under the government’s conditions, each year the dump can import up to 80,000 tonnes of waste from southern cities. Another 20,000 tonnes will be dumped by Chapais itself.
The dump was approved even though an environmental panel that held public hearings into the project last year turned it down. The COMEX environmental committee had never before turned down a project in its 18-year life.
The approval came even though Bosum said Environment Minister David Cliche promised him in a meeting that the dump would be rejected. Cliche said he does not agree with dumping one region’s garbage problems into another region’s lap.
Bosum said he was taken aback when the dump got the go-ahead. “I was outraged to say the least, especially having participated in the consultations, having learned that people in the region are not in favour of the project and having met with the minister directly, who told us face to face that the project would not go through.”
The situation took a turn for the bizarre when the chief got on the horn with Cliche. Cliche insisted he had not seen his Deputy Minister’s letter and claimed he still would not allow Quebec’s trash to be sent North. Bosum then faxed Cliche a copy of his Deputy Minister’s letter.
At press time, Bosum was still waiting for Cliche’s reply.
“I don’t know if there’s a conflict within the government. Mr. Cliche’s understanding was that they had not authorized the dump and had asked COMEX to reconsider their decision and to agree on a municipal landfill for local use only,” Bosum said.
A spokeswoman for Cliche said she didn’t know enough about the file and would call The Nation back with an explanation. The call did not come before we went to press.
“If it goes through, it’s only because someone was owed a political favour,” said Bosum. “It has not stood the test, has not met the requirements and has not been justified. There is absolutely no reason the project should go through unless it’s simply an attempt to provoke the Crees.”