A potentially explosive clean-up project moves forward at Lac Saint-Pierre, Québec

If just one Unexploded Explosive Ordnance (UXO) can be a risk, imagine the challenge Environmental Services Coordinator Josée Gagnon and her colleagues are facing with 3,000 of them left behind from munitions testing programs at Lac Saint-Pierre, Québec.

“They represent the highest risk,” said Gagnon of the fused UXOs that were identified as remaining on the lake bed when the testing program changed in 1999. At that time, there were 300,000 projectiles estimated at the site, with nearly 6,500 containing energetic material. The 3,000 that were fused were identified as the most dangerous. The key priority is to remove the UXOs that pose the highest risk—ones that contain energetic material and found in the most accessible areas.

Lac Saint-Pierre is a unique UXO removal project because the area was not used for training, but as a munitions testing range for the Canadian Armed Forces. This is where munitions were tested and proven before the Canadian army purchased them. The site is still used for this purpose but the munitions are no longer fired into the lake.

In 2007, Defence Construction Canada (DCC) began working with the Department of National Defence (DND) to assist in the coordination of the retrieval program at Lac Saint-Pierre. Gagnon and her colleagues have managed a series of contracts, assisting DND in identifying and carrying out the removal work at the lake, which is flat bottomed and used by recreational and commercial interests.

That work included geophysical surveys confirming historical data, and led to a thorough clean up in advance of dredging work that resulted in accessibility to the lake. This was followed by more work in 2012, when a dry summer revealed more lake bed—and more UXOs to remove.

“We were really pleased with the work performed, but we knew that other projectiles were still in the vicinity,” said Gagnon.

They took specific GPS co-ordinates for the others that could be seen—and the tracking work led to an even more successful sweep in the fall of 2013, when 66 high-explosive UXOs were removed, adding to the final tally of 196 projectiles removed that year. That exceeded their already-high achievement of 178 removed in 2012.

“The challenge is to collect the best data you can to assess the risk,” said Gagnon about the approach to the project at Lac Saint-Pierre.

The work isn’t over at Lac Saint-Pierre either. DND is now assessing the best option for further clean up and DCC is ready to assist.

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