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NEWS: Wakefield highway construction starting within a couple of weeks

The Wakefield Low Down reports that, “It seems as if the Save Our Spring (SOS) request for a renewed provincial environmental assessment with regard to the Hwy 5 extension project is being ignored, with heavy equipment and construction trailers springing up on area side roads over the past week. The Ministry of Transport of Quebec (MTQ) confirmed this week that construction for Phase 2 of the project, a 6.5-kilometre stretch from Chelsea to Wakefield, has already begun (near Chelsea). …Actual construction work, apart from setting up trailers and equipment, is slated to begin in a couple of weeks, according to the MTQ.”

“SOS wrote a letter of demand to the province’s minster of environment, Pierre Arcand, requesting that a new provincial assessment be conducted, saying the current study, which dates back to 1986, is out of date. SOS is concerned that the extension work could contaminate the Valley Drive spring, a popular water source used by some 5,000 people. SOS asked for a response by March. 1, but with construction already underway, it doesn’t seem like the request is being considered.”

But, “SOS chair Peter Andree sees it differently. ‘Our demand letter is not being ignored. I have been promised a response from the provincial Minister of Environment, and expect this to come in the next few weeks,’ wrote Andree in an email. ‘It is notable, however, that we are not yet seeing any activity in the La Peche end, which may be indicative of the fact that this sector remains the most contested.’”

Unfortunately, Transport Canada has also just notified the group that, “Taking into account any mitigation measures that the responsible authorities consider appropriate, the project is not likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects: the project may proceed with application of the mitigation and compensation measures specified in the report entitled ‘Prolongement de l’autoroute 5 entre Farm Point et le raccordement a la route 366, Rapport d’examen prealable par les autorites responsables (December 2010)’…”

It’s not clear at this point how this squares with a CBC news report from last September that says, “Transport Canada performed a preliminary assessment and determined that the project – which would involve lopping off a nearby hilltop – could contaminate the aquifer.” More at http://canadians.org/campaignblog/?p=4466.

The Council of Canadians has been working with SOS Wakefield to ensure that a provincial environmental assessment is conducted on the highway expansion and its impacts on the aquifer and spring before any construction proceeds. Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow, staff and chapter activists were recently in Wakefield at a packed fundraiser for SOS Wakefield at the Black Sheep Inn. More on that at http://canadians.org/campaignblog/?p=6502.

Note: And Wakefield residents have recently heard about a new sewage treatment plant – to treat liquid sludge – that is planned in their area near the Gatineau River. Already concerns are being expressed that the plant is not state-of-the-art and may pose risks. More on that soon.