rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

Why placing nuke dumps by the Great Lakes is an act of insanity

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support rabble.ca for as little as $5 per month!

I arrived back home on Friday night from the Great Lakes Need Great Friends event in Port Elgin, a quaint town surrounded by cottage homes on the breathtaking shores of Lake Huron.

The event was the sixth stop of the 2013 Great Lakes speaking tour with stops already in Duluth (WI), Milwaukee (WI), Grand Rapids (MI), Toronto and Rochester (NY). The tour originally began last year with events in eight cities including Owen Sound, Sarnia and Kingston.

Organized by Save Our Saugeen Shores, the event was standing room only with 470 people packed into the second floor of the Port Elgin Plex.

Cheryl Grace, an organizer for local groups Save Our Saugeen Shores and the Bluewater Coalition, introduced the speakers and gave an overview of the issues.

The residents of Port Elgin and Southampton -- a region known as Saugeen Shores -- are at the heart of a dilemma facing the Great Lakes. Saugeen Shores is one of 21 communities being assessed as a potential site for burying high level nuclear waste as the long-term storage solution for Canada’s nuke waste problem. Saugeen Shores faces another problem -- the Nuclear Waste Management Organization along with Ontario Power Generation (OPG) have put forward a plan to bury low and intermediate level waste roughly 30 kilometres south of Saugeen Shores underneath the Bruce Power Plant in Kincardine, Ontario. The low and intermediate level deep geologic repository -- or what’s known as DGR 1 to local residents and those well versed in the issue -- would be located within a kilometre of the shores of Lake Huron raising grave concerns about water contamination and the health and safety of the lakes. Opponents are also warning that DGR1 would set a precedent and pave the way for DGR2 or the high-level nuke waste dump. According to Bruce Power’s own documents, Southhampton’s water already had tritium levels seven times that of the provincial average in 2012.

Some residents have been working on protecting Lake Huron from nuke waste for years. They are an extremely committed and inspiring group; their passion to protect the waters of the Great Lakes is infectious.

Sierra Club’s Mary Muter was the first in the night’s spectacular line up of speakers. She gave an informative presentation about the alarmingly low water levels, the dredging of the St. Clair River and what we need to do to save the Lakes' rapidly receding shorelines.

National Chairperson for the Council of Maude Barlwo points to low water levels of Lake HuronCanadians Maude Barlow provided context to the declining Great Lakes by outlining the global water crisis and warning that by 2030 demand will outstrip supply by 40 per cent. She spoke about specific issues threats to the Great Lakes such as tar sands pipelines, including the ones running through the Straits of Mackinac, the nuke dumps, bottled water withdrawals and fracking. Barlow talked about the need for a new water ethic where water is at the centre of environmental, energy, food and other policies. Water must be recognized as a human right, public trust and commons which means that no one is allowed to abuse, pollute or appropriate the Lakes. We collectively share the lakes and have a responsibility to protect them. Barlow clearly stated a need to shift our relationship to water and the way that water is managed and concluded that the nuke dumps are an “act of insanity.”

Sarnia mayor Mike Bradley -- one of the most vocal opponents to the recently defeated nuke waste shipment -- told the audience that the risk of the DGRs were too great for the Lakes, warning that “we cannot keep playing Russian Roulette with the Great Lakes.” Mayor Bradley had biting words for the Saugeen Shores council saying that he couldn’t tell the difference between the local council and OPG.

Saugeen First Nation Chief Randall Kahgee had simple yet profound words for the audience saying that “for all of us, water is life.” He said that he felt a responsibility to do everything in his power to protect the waters of the Great Lakes for tomorrow’s generations so that his children and his grand children don't ask why he didn’t do anything to protect the water and air. Under the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, governments have an obligation to obtain free, prior and informed consent and Chief Kahgee vowed that without free, prior and informed consent, the DGRs would not happen.

Brockton Councillor Chris Peabody spoke last, a lone councillor in the region raising concerns about the potential harms of the DGRs.

It showed that the audience was deeply moved by the presentation, with some near tears throughout the talks. The DGRs are a heated topic in this and other communities. With Bruce Power being the main employer in the region, the town is deeply divided. Yet the receding shorelines that are an ever increasingly problem are a stark reminder that the Great Lakes are not limitless and immune to our actions. If there is one thing to take away from Maude Barlow's speech it’s that a new water ethic is critical for saving the Great Lakes. We must ensure that the protection of water is paramount in energy policies. The time to begin that is now and the issue to begin with is the nuke dumps.

To take action on the nuke dumps, visit the SOS website and the Stop the Great Lakes Nuclear Dump website.

To view photos from our visit, click here.

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.


We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:


  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.


  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.