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Oil wells threaten Lake Huron island

CBC reports that there are about 40 abandoned oil wells on Manitoulin Island that pose a risk to the Wikwemikong First Nation’s drinking water. “(The) wells scattered across the reserve were constructed from the 1860s to the 1950s (and at least two of them are located in) areas where water flows down to Lake Huron, the community’s water source.”

Manitoulin Island is an island in Lake Huron. It separates the larger part of Lake Huron to its south and west from Georgian Bay to its east. The island itself has 108 freshwater lakes and four major rivers.

Manitoulin Island

“The Wikwemikong Unceded Indian Reserve has been asking the government for financial help for years. …(Now) the federal government is paying to cap two leaking oil wells… Project manager Stitch Manitowabi said the government is allowing $200,000 for the work… Manitowabi (says), ‘The natural watershed area for our community’s drinking source (is) in the bay. We’re right in the heart of the oil field, so the contamination can eventually reach our drinking water supply for our community.'”

“Officials with the Wikwemikong Unceded Indian Reserve say (the federal money is) a start, but more must be done to protect the community’s water source. …Chief Duke Peltier said the community is about to start testing its water for hydrocarbons — but he said one can’t put a dollar amount on protecting drinking water. ‘It just needs to get done at whatever cost’, he said.”

As noted in a recent campaign blog, the Ontario Geological Survey (which is part of the Ontario Ministry of Northern Development and Mines) drilled test holes for shale gas near Little Current on Manitoulin Island in 2012. That information was buried in the Ontario Geological Survey publication ‘Summary of Field Work and Other Activities for 2012, Section 29 on the Potential Ordovician Shale Gas Units in Southern Ontario’, but uncovered by Council of Canadians water campaigner Emma Lui.