Lack of action on protecting spring in Wakefield, Quebec keeps SOS alarm bells ringing

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by admin on April 6, 2011

The Editor,

Readers may be forgiven for wondering why SOS Wakefield continues to raise concerns about threats to the Wakefield, Quebec Spring from the Hwy A5 extension when the MTQ repeatedly says that all environmental studies are complete.

We do so because studies done to date are far from conclusive. Federal Environmental Assessment (EA) documents recognize that the Vallee Verde aquifer is at risk from the blasting that will cut 30 metres deep into the mountain at the top of Valley Drive.

This is why the MTQ is already busy replacing wells for families that live on Vallee Verde and Brown Lake Roads. How that blasting will affect the spring remains unclear. The MTQ bases its conclusions to date on a study that says the spring is likely fed by several sources, including runoff from the Hillcrest area and the abandoned quarry at the corner of Rockhurst Road and Highway 105.

Notably, the latter site is right next to the mountain to be decapitated. Taking the risk that the blasting will not affect the adjacent water table without a clearly defined “Source Protection Area” for the spring is not adopting the precautionary principle as mandated in Quebec’s 2009 groundwater protection law. It would also not pass muster in Ontario, where the province adopted a new law requiring the delineation of source protection areas after the Walkerton water crisis.

The lack of clarity on these issues, combined with a monitoring plan that only requires samples to be taken at the spring once each year, should also raise alarm bells for the Municipality of La Peche. At the very least, the municipality will want to put in place a more detailed monitoring regime, sentinel wells, and an emergency response plan.

Federal election candidates also have a role to play here. In what appears to have been a rush to move forward, the federal EA was completed in January despite not providing answers to these issues raised in a final round of public consultation.

All candidates should now be asked if they would have the EA completed properly after the next election. We are not against a safer highway in this region, but we do want to see the spring and other key local values protected.

Until we see more action on these issues by all levels of government, we will continue to raise the alarm.

 

Philippe Cappeliez

Wakefield, Quebec