A small community in northern Ontario, this self-described "Jewel in the Wilderness" is more noteworthy because of the uranium mines that were located there. The tailings from the mine, about 200 million tonnes, are highly radioactive and filled with heavy metals. The mining consortium's plan to deal with this? Their idea of Radioactive Waste Disposal: Flood the mines and tailings with a few feet of water, and walk away.

For every tonne of ore mined in Elliot Lake, about .1% uranium "yellowcake" was extracted, yielding about a tonne of tailings and two tonnes of a radioactive liquid called "leech". The combined results, called "slurry" were dumped wherever it was most convenient, in lakes, rivers and depressions.

Due to the long half-life of one of the most poisonous elements, thorium-230, which turns into the carcinogen radium-226, the site will be contaminted for about 760,000 years.

The Eliiot Lake sites dumping are for the most part totally accessible, being neither fenced nor guarded.

Elliot Lake is now most known for its reitrement housing. In the summers I spent there, in 1963 and 1964, it was quite different.

It was beginning to be a ghost town--street upon street of house just boarded up and left. The mines, which had grown up in the 1950's, in response to the Cold War need for uranium, if not directly from these mines, had created a boom here.

We hardly noticed this, spemding the summers all day at the beach, arriving home--we rented a house in the teacherage, where teachers, obviously, spent the winter.

The first summer was spent there courtesy of the Canada Council--a grant to allow my father to write a second book, which unfortunately, couldn't be sold. The second summer, he stayed in Toronto to write a children's program for the CBC.

The biggest calamity to strike us while there, was a leak of sulfuric acid, used in the making of yellowcake. The word came down to boil the water. Which we did. Very fortunately for us, the acid never made it to the water intake. If it had, the boiling would have made it worse.

In 1966, reports of the leak of radioactive wastes into Elliot Lake, the lake itself, were published in the Globe and Mail. This is the body of water in which we swam, every day, and from which the town drew it water supply.

Some help!

Upon occasion, I still make the joke that I glow in the dark, but only slightly.

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