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NEWS: Transport Canada says highway could contaminate Wakefield aquifer

CBC reports that, “Wakefield, Que., residents are worried that highway expansion in the area will contaminate a popular source of drinking water. Plans to widen Highway 5 to four lanes near the quaint Quebec village north of Ottawa could contaminate the aquifer that they have used for decades as a source of drinking water. That fear has been backed by federal officials as well. Transport Canada performed a preliminary assessment and determined that the project – which would involve lopping off a nearby hilltop – could contaminate the aquifer.”

In May, a local newspaper – The Low Down – reported that Jean-Francois Roy, an engineer associated with Cima+ and Tecsult Inc., told concerned residents at an information session that hydrology studies are underway to investigate any impact on Wakefield’s water supply, but no date for the completion of the study was given. That article noted, “(Villagers) at the meeting asked for assurances the highway would not be built until the hydrology studies and the federal environmental impact study are completed. Roy assured them that the highway cannot be built until provincial and federal officials authorize everything, and nothing can be authorized until the studies are completed.”

So it is notable that the Transport Canada assessment determined that the highway project could contaminate the aquifer.

The CBC report adds, “SOS (Save Our Spring) wants a new and more comprehensive environmental report carried out and more consultation before there is any more work done to extend the highway beyond Wakefield. They have also started a letter-writing campaign aimed at key local, provincial and federal officials. But so far, neither Transport Canada nor Quebec’s Transportation Ministry is willing to open up the plan to consultation.”

Work on an initial 2.5 kilometre portion of the highway began in 2010. Work on Phase 2, which extends 6.5 kilometres from Meech Creek to Wakefield, is scheduled to begin in the spring of 2011. Phase 3 will extend Highway 5 one kilometre north of Wakefield.

The CBC report is at http://www.cbc.ca/canada/ottawa/story/2010/09/02/ottawa-wakefield-spring.html. Campaign blogs on this issue are at http://canadians.org/campaignblog/?p=3898 and http://canadians.org/campaignblog/?p=3716.