The Port Hope Area Initiative involves a process that will lead to the cleanup of low-level radioactive wastes in two communities in Southern Ontario and the construction of three new long-term waste management facilities in those communities. The history of the Initiative provides important insights into local participation and the successes and failures of siting efforts. The wastes resulted from the operations of an industrial process in Port Hope that began in the 1930s. Initially, wastes (contaminated with radium, uranium, and arsenic) from radium processing were deposited in a relatively uncontrolled manner at various locations within the town. By the 1940s, uranium processing wastes were deposited at nearby purpose-built radioactive waste management facilities. The problem of contamination was first recognized in 1974 and the worst cases quickly cleaned up. However, large volumes of contamination remained in the community. There were three successive efforts to develop an approach to deal with the area’s contamination. In the early to mid 1980s, a standard approach was employed; i.e. indentifying the most technically appropriate local site for a disposal facility, proceeding to evaluate that site, and communicating the benefits of the chosen approach to the local community. That approach was resoundingly rejected by local citizens and government representatives. The second effort, an innovative and consultative voluntary siting effort carried out during the late-1980s and early to mid-1990s involved the solicitation of other municipalities to volunteer to host a facility for the disposal of the Port Hope areas wastes. That effort resulted in the identification of a single volunteer community. However, negotiations between the federal government and the municipality were unable to reach an acceptable agreement establishing the conditions for the community to host the waste management facility. The third effort, a community-driven approach, was undertaken in the late-1990s and resulted in an agreement in 2001 between the Government of Canada and the local communities that sets in motion a process for the cleanup of the local wastes and long-term management in new local waste management facilities. This paper provides insights into the history of the problem, the efforts of the federal government over the last two decades to deal with the issue, how local participation and decision-making processes affected the successes of the various siting approaches, and lessons learned that might be of interest to others who must deal with environmental remediation situations that involve siting long-term management facilities.

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