Canadian wasteland gets green makeover
September 12, 1996
Web posted at: 4:10 p.m. EDT
From Correspondent Ann Kellan
SUDBURY, Ontario (CNN) -- Imagine your hometown's landscape
looking like the surface of the moon. Sudbury, Ontario,
once bore that distinction.
Pollution from the mining industries in town ate away the
shrubbery, killed off its fish and destroyed much of its
population. But now, trees are sprouting, fish are spawning
and wildlife is roaming freely.
The makeover is thanks in large part to various environmental
"I know when my dad first came here from Timmons he said it
just black rock. Barren," said resident Tom Pocrnick.
Victim of acid rain
Copper and nickel mining are the major industries in Sudbury,
northwest of Toronto. For more than 100 years, pollution
from the local industries poured into the environment. The
town was the biggest producer of acid rain-causing chemicals
in North America, and the region
became notorious for its landscape, stripped by acid rain.
The metal-rich rocks mined in the area contain sulfur. During
the smelting, or purifying, process,
oxygen combined with sulfur to make sulfur dioxide. The
then spewed from smoke stacks.
Some of it drifted into the clouds and came down as acid
rest reached the soil directly without becoming
Lakes as far as 90 miles away started dying off. "This was
very popular angling lake. Many tourists came in here and
ceased," Ed Snucins, a rehabilitation biologist, said of Lake
Answer: blowing in the wind
But in 1972, the government stepped in and environmental
regulations went into place, forcing industries to cut back
Much of the improved environment is the result from changes
by Inco, the largest mining company in Sudbury. The company
1,200-foot smoke stack, dispersing the sulfur dioxide over a
Other changes followed. Inco shut down one of its smelting
installed new smelting furnaces and changed its milling
that less sulfur is abstracted from the rocks.
The gases are now trapped and sent through a pipeline to an
treatment plant, where they are converted into sulfuric acid
sold as a product.
The next step was helping the environment repair itself. Inco
and the government dispersed lime through the air and in the
ground to neutralize the acidic soil.
One year later, the grasses and clovers grow. Birch and
are taking root. Lakes are returning to normal. Insects,
small mammals have come back.
"The last time the native fish spawned was in 1966 and then
year the fish we introduced spawned once again. So we've
circle," Snucins said.
Other countries, he said, should take heed: "Pollution
do pay. They are effective and we should not use that as an
excuse for not doing anything."
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