CNL says failed Chalk River sewage tests will be investigated 

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Chalk River Labs
The sewage treatment facility, which opened in 2019 about 175 kilometres west of Ottawa, has since passed three consecutive toxicity tests on effluent samples collected between April and May. Photo Credit: CNL

Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) says effluent from its Sanitary Sewage Treatment Plant at its Chalk River Laboratories site in Ontario has returned to full compliance with environmental regulations following disruptions to the activated sludge that led to failed acute toxicity tests. 

“This takes some time to recover from, as the biological population needs to rebuild to a culture that has the appropriate age and type of micro-fauna,” CNL announced in a statement on May 3. 

CNL, a private sector consortium contracted to manage federal nuclear sites and facilities, reported the February 21 discharges to the Ontario Spills Action Centre, while Environment Canada received notice of the failure on March 8. An enforcement officer issued a corrective direction on April 23. 

The sewage treatment facility, which opened in 2019 about 175 kilometres west of Ottawa, has since passed three consecutive toxicity tests on effluent samples collected between April and May.

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CNL confirmed that the non-compliant effluent was not related to radiological contaminants. 

In working to regain compliance, CNL announced a number of steps that included increased toxicity testing of the facility’s effluent; procurement of third-party support to complete a toxicity evaluation; a detailed review, as well as chemical analysis, on all influent and effluent; and other improvements.

“Work to identify the root cause of the disruption remains underway, and CNL is actively implementing an action plan to ensure that there is not a repeat occurrence,” CNL announced in a statement on June 6.

In April, CNL announced that it hopes to achieve carbon neutral operations at its Chalk River Laboratories campus by 2040.   

Earlier this year, the country’s nuclear regulator approved CNL’s plan to build a radioactive waste landfill at the Chalk River site.

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