Chevron applies for Peel clean up permit

Chevron Canada is finally planning to clean up its contaminated Crest site by the Snake River in the Peel River watershed. The site dates back to the early 1960s.

Chevron Canada is finally planning to clean up its contaminated Crest site by the Snake River in the Peel River watershed.

The site dates back to the early 1960s when the company first staked the Crest iron deposit and conducted a major exploration program.

The company’s cleanup plans are now under review by the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board.

The company wants to dismantle a large fuel tank and clean up soil that was contaminated when the tank was vandalized, said Loralee Johnstone, manager of YESAB’s Mayo office.

It wants to clean up the soil with a hydrogen-peroxide mix. Any soil it can’t clean, it plans to fly out, as it plans to do with the pieces of the tank.

To carry out this work, Chevron wants to improve and resurface a section of its old airstrip, Johnstone said.

It plans to reclaim the airstrip when the job is done, she said.

Public comments on the proposed project closed Wednesday.

Only three letters were submitted as of Tuesday.

One came from the Mayo District Renewable Resources Council, applauding Chevron for its efforts to reclaim the site.

Another from the Yukon Conservation Society raised some concerns.

In the letter, Lewis Rifkind, the society’s mining co-ordinator, said it needs more details about Chevron’s plans.

It wants to know why heavy-lift helicopters can’t be used instead of fixed-wing airplanes, which require improving the airstrip.

It also wants to know how much soil will be hauled out of the site and where it will be taken.

The group also wants flight plans provided to ensure ecologically sensitive areas are avoided.

Its letter also quotes Chevron’s application to “roll back” any improvements on the airstrip, but it wants to know how serious that promise is.

“This project must not enhance the quality or character of the airstrip in anticipation of the Crest iron ore deposit claims being sold,” the letter said.

“The airstrip improvements would potentially increase the selling price of the claims. Basically, a better airstrip will see more aircraft traffic. YCS is concerned that this would destroy the values that are being recommended for protection under the Peel land use plan.”

A third letter came from the chiefs of the Tr’ondek Hwech’in and the First Nation of Na-cho Nyak Dun and the president of the Gwich’in Tribal Council. It was submitted to the assessment board in June 2010 and is automatically included with any application for a project in the Peel.

It reminds the board of the importance of the land use planning process and the need for it to be respected.

But in a phone interview with the News on April 2, Chief Simon Mervyn of the First Nation of Na-cho Nyak Dun said there were no concerns with Chevron going in to clean up.

“To date, I don’t see any big glaring issues (with the project),” he said. “There’s been no red flags coming from our lands department on environmental issues, at this time, so I think that all is well.”

YESAB’s Johnstone said she doesn’t see how the cleanup could go against the intent of the land use plan.

“This is a contaminated site and their intention is strictly to go in and clean it up and leave the area in a more pristine way than it currently is,” she said. “I would say that it’d be hard to argue that wouldn’t fit in with the plan.

“It’s a contaminated site that needs to be cleaned up. They own and are responsible for it.”

Mervyn’s only recommendation is that Chevron hire some of the First Nation’s youth for the summer and teach them about environmental remediation.

“And they’re totally receptive to that,” said Mervyn.

Chevron has told the First Nation it’s thinking of selling its iron claims because it’s not in the mining business.

The First Nation would prefer Chevron relinquish the claims altogether.

“But realistically we know that’s not going to happen,” said Mervyn.

“Between you and me and the deep blue sea, we know that they’re not going to release those claims because they still have value for them. But the offer is still out there … that they do the manly thing and turn it over to the First Nation.”

Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at

roxannes@yukon-news.com

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