Sudbury Soil Study – Did it Short-Circuit the Community Process? – by Bill Bradley

Northern Life, Greater Sudbury’s community newspaper, gave Republic of permission to post Bill Bradley’s article.

There is an old saying around farmyards. Don’t be surprised if, when you go to get the horses, you find the barn door was left open and the horses have stampeded out the door. This seems to be the case with the Sudbury Soils Study, according to its critics.

Why is it that the original terms of reference did not include the influence of metal contamination on area mining workers, including contractors? It would seem obvious that these workers face a double whammy of workplace exposure and environmental exposure, especially if they live near the old smelter sites at Copper Cliff, Gatchell, Falconbridge and Coniston.

This would mean that Ontario government representation would have to include the Ontario Ministry of Labour and the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long Term Care on the technical committee (TC), which is responsible for the whole process.

Why did the study not receive funding from these players, considered independent by the community? Instead, why was the study wholly funded by the two major mining companies, who have been fingered by veteran health and safety advocate Homer Seguin, as being in the process of investigating themselves?

Franco Mariotti, Sudbury Soils Study independent process observer and prominent local environmental scientist, insists nothing of that nature ever happened, despite the apparent conflict of interest.

But perception in the community, fanned by such prominent critics as Seguin and union presidents Rick Grylls and John Fera, can lead to unease.

According to Seguin, the problem is that he and others were shut out of participating in the TC as the terms of reference were being developed.

“The doors were closed to us. We had no idea what they (members of the TC) were developing for the first few years,” said Seguin.

That had ramifications on the study, say the critics.

Why were adults not tested and models used by the study focusing on children instead, on future exposure and not the past and present cumulation, asked Rick Grylls Mine Mill president, this week.

Brennain Lloyd of Northwatch, a regional environmental group based in North Bay, said the Public Advisory Committee, charged with being the link between the TC and the public, was not really asked to build capacity with the public. This is surprising considering the tough technical nature of the whole project, she noted.

If there was more accountability to the public, details like a clean up and remediation strategy for problem areas would have been part of the process, said Lloyd. They have been left out, she said.

All of this leads to the conclusion of the need to have full community input and even intervenor funding for community groups to be able to hire their experts and engage the public.

Here in Greater Sudbury, another example of the short circuit of the community process are the so-called legacy projects.

Why is it that community panels comprised of arts and sports groups from the wards themselves were not organized for Azilda, Chelmsford, Capreol or Coniston?

Citizens could have had a chance to speak with sports and arts groups where they lived. They could have been sold on the idea of a larger community arts and sports project to help and compliment local ward efforts. Instead, only two public consultations were held at Tom Davies Square. The vote at city council went against the legacy projects. Some councillors said later there should have been more consultation at the ward level. The horses were already out the door.