Government Taking On A Health and Safety Headache in Swan Hills Plant

EDMONTON - The Alberta Federation of Labour released documents today accessed through the Freedom of Information Act which show that Bovar employees have elevated PCB levels in their blood and that health and safety incidents such as spills and leaks of contaminated waste is frequent on the Swan Hills site.

"If the government intends to take over Swan Hills, they had better know that they have a huge health and safety problem at that site," says AFL President Audrey Cormack. "Documents we received through FOIP show that PCB blood levels in Bovar workers have grown steadily since 1993. The documents also show that Bovar's health and safety record is questionable."

"When the government takes over, their first priority better be cleaning up the site and doing a better job of protecting the workers."

Cormack pointed out that Bovar records show that in 1993 blood levels of PCBs averaged 1.8 PPB in Swan Hills workers. By 1997, this number reached 8.25 PPB. In 1999 the level was 7.28 (chart attached). A Bovar memo relates the small drop to "the increase of new employees who may not have been exposed to PCB's previously." (memo dated July 17, 1998).

The documents also show that in 1998 that 4% of Bovar's workforce had PCB blood levels over 30 ppb, which is the level at which immediate action is required to limit PCB exposure. While the scientific measurements of PCB blood levels are very complicated, most experts consider the levels seen at the Swan Hill plant to be above normal and at a level that should be addresssed.

"The documents also show that the Swan Hills plant has a track record of consistent spills and leaks of contaminated waste," adds Cormack. Health and Safety reports show that spills or leaks causing exposure to hazards happen monthly at the Swan Hills site.

"My primary concern is the welfare of those workers," says Cormack. "Bovar has clearly not done a good enough job protecting them from PCBs and other hazards. If the government is going to step in, they had better do a better job than Bovar did."

Cormack urged the government to bring in scientific experts independent of the Swan Hills Plant to study the problem and offer actions that can be taken to protect the workers. She also wonders why the government never cracked down on Bovar during all these years of health and safety problems.

"If they can't assure the safety of the workers at the plant, it should be shut down until they can, and the workers compensated for the loss of employment and for the exposure to PCBs." Cormack concluded.

For more information call:

Audrey M. Cormack, President at 499-6530 (cell) or428-9367 (hm)

Jason Foster at 910-1137 (cell) or 471-5525 (office)

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