Solid Waste Incineration in a Saskatchewan First Nation Community: A Community-Based Environmental Assessment of Dioxins and Furans





The Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) assumes the responsibility for the operation of waste dumps and landfills on First Nations Communities and although INAC has a fiduciary responsibility for waste disposal, most waste sites operated on First Nations communities remain unregulated. The incineration of solid waste is a form of waste disposal that has been conducted for years on Saskatchewan First Nations communities. The safety and acceptability of the solid waste management practice of incineration is a serious concern for many community members from both human and environmental health perspectives. Dioxins and furans are toxic and persistent chemical pollutants formed through the combustion of chemical and solid waste materials and are considered toxic under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. Federal toxic management policies are currently aimed to virtually eliminate them from the Canadian environment. Due to the inherent nature and persistence of these chemicals in the environment, a preliminary investigation, part of a larger community-based participatory
research study assessing historic and current waste practices, was initiated to determine environmental levels of dioxins and furans in environmental media in a Saskatchewan First Nation community. The Mistawasis First Nation in partnership with the Saskatoon Tribal Council, Saskatchewan Research Council (SRC), and the University of Saskatchewan (U. of S.) investigated the presence and concentrations of dioxins and furans in groundwater, soil, and ash samples collected from the community’s active waste disposal site. The chemical analysis of soil and ash samples indicated the presence and concentrations of dioxins and furans well above the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME) soil quality guidelines for the protection of human and environmental health. Groundwater samples collected for analysis had no measurable concentrations of dioxins or furans. These findings suggest that waste incineration releases dioxins and furans to the soil and ash. Further environmental assessment is required to gain a better understanding of the extent of dioxin and furan release to the environment through the practice of waste incineration and of the potential health risks associated with exposures
to dioxins and furans generated through waste incineration.

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