MTQ data on Hwy 5 impact shortcuts new provincial environmental assessment


by admin on November 17, 2010

The Editor,

It’s good to hear that the Ministry of Transport of Quebec (MTQ) has more data on the potential impact of the Hwy 5 extension on the Wakefield, Quebec spring (Low Down, Nov. 10 edition).

This study is not yet public, so we cannot comment on its thoroughness. Missing, however, was the story behind the study, which relates directly to the front-page photo taken by Franziska Heinze.

Thanks to a (now) 2800-plus signature petition, a spring survey led by Louis Molgat and letters from local citizens (including many in the Heinze photo), Transport Canada (TC) recognized that studies undertaken by the MTQ were not enough.

Contrary to the suggestion made by the MTQ, however, no one knows if the new data will satisfy the federal government or the Quebec Minister of Sustainable Development, Environment and Parks (MDDEP).

You quote an MTQ communications officer stating that the latest studies of the spring led to a “certificate of approval” from the Quebec government. However, Transport Quebec websites show that the “certificate of authorization” for the Hwy 5 expansion to Wakefield was actually given on May 27, 1987 based on a provincial environmental assessment (EA) of 1986.

The lack of a recent Quebec EA is a major issue. That is the venue where alternative designs are examined, and where a thorough public consultation takes place – neither of which occurs under the federal process.

A provincial EA is also the way to assess whether proposed developments are in line with new Quebec laws on groundwater protection (2009) and sustainable development (2006).

Issues like potential impacts on the spring, ongoing access to the Gatineau Park via Brown Lake Road, impacts on endangered species, and plans for an overbuilt entrance to Wakefield all suggest the need for careful examination to ensure Hwy 5 meets the needs of today, rather than those of 1986.

Finally, your article mentions that the highway was expected to contaminate surface water, but that the MTQ says “further investigations have proved otherwise.” I would caution against relying on the highway proponent (the MTQ) for this conclusion, which also appears to confuse issues of ground and surface water.

The federal EA identified the surface-water issue. It also stated that this contamination could affect the ground water of the Valle Verde aquifer because that aquifer is not capped in clay.

It should be up to the federal authorities, independent experts and the MDDEP to draw conclusions on the recent studies undertaken by the MTQ on both surface and ground water, not the MTQ itself.

Dr. Peter Andrée

Chair, Save Our Spring

Wakefield, Quebec