Yukon North Of Ordinary

News archive for November 13, 2012

Big projects merit studies on health effects: MD

The Yukon should develop a process for assessing the public health impacts of major projects, says the territory’s chief medical officer of health.

By Ainslie Cruickshank on November 13, 2012 at 3:26 pm

The Yukon should develop a process for assessing the public health impacts of major projects, says the territory’s chief medical officer of health.

Dr. Brendan Hanley said in an interview last week he would like to see health impact assessments become as commonplace as environmental assessments.

Hanley made the comments in response to calls from the NDP for a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing until a full health assessment on the practice can be completed.

MLA Jim Tredger, the NDP’s Energy, Mines and Resources critic,  raised the issue during question period last Tuesday following the release of a report by New Brunswick’s chief medical officer of health.

The report made several recommendations for limiting the potential impacts of shale gas development,  including a recommendation to conduct health impact assessments as part of project reviews, a recommendation Hanley echoes.

But Hanley stopped short of calling for a territory-wide assessment, noting much of the work already completed in New Brunswick should apply equally in the Yukon.

“I don’t think at this point there’d be much point in undertaking a huge review of the shale gas industry from the public health point of view when I think if everyone involved would sit down and read the report that Dr. (Eilish) Cleary produced it would lay it out pretty well and most of it would apply directly to Yukon’s context,” he said.

The report highlights various considerations for examining the potential public health impacts of shale gas development, including the boom town effect.

“That should be considered,” said Hanley. “Rapid economic development, how does that affect the structure of the community?”

The report also underlines the importance of long-term health monitoring, how development will affect the community in the future, not just for the duration of the project.

Then there are all the physical qualities that will need assessment and continued monitoring including air quality, noise, vibrations and light.

Hanley also noted that while the potential impacts on ground water, for example, would be considered in the water licensing process, conducting an assessment with a public health lens could change how the licensing occurs.

“At the end of the report,  there’s kind of a nice quote that says while the recommendations might seem onerous, they should be seen as routine public health practice. I think that would be a very positive way forward,” Hanley said.

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