Successful contaminated site clean-up in Ivvavik National Park
Stokes Point is located along the Yukon North Slope in Ivvavik National Park. Ivvavik is the first national park in Canada established through an aboriginal land claim agreement, and was created in part to protect the calving grounds of the world famous Porcupine Caribou Herd. Prior to the creation of Ivvavik in 1984, Stokes Point was the location of a short lived Cold War era Distant Early Warning (DEW) Line station known as BAR-B (1950s-1960s). In the 1980s, it was a Beaufort Sea offshore oil exploration camp.
When the community of Aklavik and the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation raised concerns about possible contamination at Stokes Point, Parks Canada worked closely with the Inuvialuit and other project partners on a five year investigation and clean-up of the site.
During the investigation stage of the project more than 1,600 samples were collected from soil, water, sediment, plants and berries, fish and ground squirrels, and building materials like paint and insulation. The wealth of knowledge from Inuvialuit Elders ensured that the field investigation team did not miss any potential source of contamination. Once collected, samples were tested in a laboratory to measure the extent of any contamination that compromised the safety of people and animals that use the site.
Once the clean-up plan was developed, specific actions included removing soil, collecting and removing debris and demolishing the remains of the historic DEW Line station. No landfills were constructed at Stokes Point for this clean-up. All collected material was taken to approved landfill and treatment facilities in the Northwest Territories, Alberta and BC. Some areas of minor contamination were left untouched as more aggressive clean-up activities posed the risk of creating long-term damage to the permafrost, threatened to release contaminants to nearby water, or might compromise the integrity of archaeological resources. Long term monitoring is in place at the site to ensure the ongoing effectiveness of the clean-up.
This project was a huge success. It is the largest contaminated site clean-up project ever undertaken by Parks Canada, and it took place in one of the most challenging environments in the world. Moreover, it was successful largely as a result of the collaborative approach that brought Parks Canada, Inuvialuit and other Government of Canada departments together to develop solutions and implement the clean-up plan. By working together to restore the health of the land, water, animals and plants that are so important to the ecosystem, the Inuvialuit, and visitors to the park, Stokes Point is once again safe.