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NEWS: Excavation for Highway 5 expansion may threaten Wakefield Spring

SOS Wakefield president Peter Andree and Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow

SOS Wakefield president Peter Andree and Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow

The Wakefield Low Down reports, “Couillard Construction, the company building the Wakefield highway extension, has totally ignored a stop-work order from the province’s ministry of environment and sustainable development (MDDEP)… The company has been extracting sand from the sandpit for highway work and is now filling in the site with clay.” This is raising concerns because, “The Federal Screening Report conducted by Transport Canada, Fisheries and Oceans and the National Capital Commission in 2010 suggests that the source of the Wakefield spring…comes from the sandpit that is currently being severely excavated. The report states: ‘According to Natural Resources Canada experts, ‘the water feeding this spring appears to come from the hills in the upper watershed area, to the east and south of the spring, and from the sand and gravel pit located on either side of Route 105, near Rockhurst Road (a former quarry is also present).'”

The news article notes, “According to ministry of environment spokesperson Christian Perron, Couillard Construction has been ordered to stop extracting sand from the pit, as the company does not have the necessary permits to dig there. The work is also far too close to residential homes on Rockhurst Road (and too near a cemetery, with the nearest graveyard site about 100 feet from the pit). …Large boulders the ministry put down to block the site have simply been pushed aside by Couillard Construction, which continues to dig and dump all day long. …The province’s ministry of transport (MTQ) spokesperson Stephanie Lemieux said the issue does not involve her organization, but revolves around Couillard Construction and the owner of the sandpit. …When sandpit owner Albert Kealey of Low was reached, he said that he has not received any stop work orders from the environment ministry and claims the work at the site is completely legal. …The municipality is now seeking legal advice to deal with the problems.”

Highlighting the water concerns, the report adds, “Excavation work off Rockhurst Road in Wakefield has members of Save Our Spring (SOS) worried that Hwy 5 construction will diminish the quality of water that flows from the spring on Valley Drive. SOS President Peter Andree told the Low Down that his organization is worried that the Wakefield spring has no protection plan and could be contaminated or diminished by what seems to be illegal work being carried out (at the) sandpit. …’This just shows again that the spring needs a clear source protection strategy,’ said Andree. ‘We feel that this is just another example of why the spring needs to be understood – where the water comes from and where the aquifers are.'”

As noted in previous campaign blogs, in August 2009, Prime Minister Stephen Harper stated, “The extension of Highway 5, the largest infrastructure project in the Outaouais, will help the region’s economic development, create high-paying jobs and greatly enhance the quality of life and safety of residents of the Outaouais region.”

Nikki Mantell, the editor of the Low Down, has commented, “The Wakefield spring is the closest thing the region has to holy water – people revere it, cherish it, talk about it to their city friends, their city friends come to Wakefield just to get a taste. It’s natural, clean, cold, delicious and free. It’s a valued necessity to residents, cottagers and visitors. Rich or poor, newbie or long-time local; the spring’s value cuts across boundaries. To ruin it would be an unforgivable act.”

For numerous campaign blogs on this issue, please see http://canadians.org/blog/?s=%22highway+5%22.