Keepers busy with appeals, testing, and free workshops

Pearl Lorentzen
Lakeside Leader

In January, Keepers of the Athabasca, individuals, and various First Nations appealed the 10-year operating approval of the Swan Hills Hazardous Waste Treatment Centre, says Jule Asterisk, program coordinator at Keepers. The Alberta Environment lawyers have filed to have these notices of appeal excluded. Keepers is preparing for a meeting with a mediator to argue for the inclusion of the appeals.

The whole appeal process will take a long time.

The treatment plant is 75 km southeast of Kinuso off Highway 33. It is operated by Suez, and has been in the area since 1985.

There have been three undocumented ‘unplanned releases’ says Keepers’ 2015 challenge to the centre’s operation.

While waiting for the mediation, Keepers is moving forward with environmental testing for dioxins and furans. The test sites are the same ones which Keepers and Suez tested for Polychlorinated biphenyls PCBs, several years ago. The testing will happen sometime this winter at the mouth of the Swan River and near Faust on Lesser Slave Lake.

In other news, on February 4, Keepers held a workshop at the Slave Lake Native Friendship Centre on Indigenous Water Governance. The same free workshop is in High Prairie on February 12 from noon to 3 p.m.

There are two types of community-based water monitoring Keepers helps people get certified in. These are Canadian Aquatic Bio-monitoring Network and Bio-assay, which uses micro-organisms to test for toxicity.

Keepers has developed a data visualization tool for the interaction between ground and surface water, says Asterisk. Keepers is promoting its use by communities. It is especially useful to test land which is near tar sands or coal mine tailing ponds, neither of which are around Lesser Slave Lake.

The workshop ended with three questions: Can there be an Indigenous water governance model for Canada? Can we learn to respect water and not pollute? Can we learn to share water?

There are two remaining free workshops. Circle of Water, which is a talking and listening circle so people can voice their concerns about the watershed. The final one is Where’s My Power. These are on the first Tuesday of the month in Slave Lake and the second Wednesday in High Prairie.

Another new program is 30 to 40 free energy audits and Where’s My Power workshops on location for businesses, non-profits, etc.

Five or six are booked already, and there are a few more groups interested, says Asterisk.

The deadline is May. For more information contact Asterisk at 780-805-1709.

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