Towards an Arctic-wide approach for the assessment and remediation of abandoned military sites

Theme 1. Environmental protection
Session Name 1.2 International conservation law and local communities. Can local interests be adequately integrated?
Presentation Type Oral
Author(s) Daniela Loock (Royal Military College of Canada, Canada), Darren White (Royal Military College of Canada, Canada), Michael Hulley (Royal Military College of Canada, Canada), Kela Weber (Royal Military College of Canada, Canada)
Abstract text

Abandoned military sites constitute a significant point source of persistent pollutants within the Arctic. The 63 U.S. Distant Early Warning (DEW) Line stations built in the mid-1950s spanned a distance of over 5000 km of arctic coast line. Forty-two of the stations were located in Canada, with additional stations in Greenland and Iceland. Agreements between the U.S. and the Canadian, Danish and Icelandic Governments transferred the responsibility for the future fate of the sites to these countries. The Royal Military College of Canada conducted environmental site assessment studies at the 42 Canadian sites using a semi-quantitative approach to risk analysis that focused on identification of contaminant sources, pathways and receptors, and considered traditional knowledge and use of the land by indigenous peoples. Our studies demonstrated that the sites have similar physical and chemical impacts on the environment arising from their common infrastructure design and operational practices. Guided by our recommendations and in consultation with the affected indigenous groups, the Canadian Government developed a comprehensive approach for assessment and remediation of the former military sites to a common standard. Today, most of the Canadian sites are cleaned up. In this study, the extensive knowledge garnered as part of the DEW Line remediation was applied to the assessment of the former H-2 Langanes Air Station, Iceland. A targeted field program using limited resources identified similar operational practices and contaminant distribution patterns. Therefore, the Canadian approach can be extended arctic-wide for an effective assessment and remediation strategy of former military stations.

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