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UPDATE: SOS Wakefield holds public meeting

The 20-week old, 200-strong group SOS Wakefield is holding a public meeting this evening in Wakefield, Quebec, which is located about 45 kilometres north of Ottawa.

As reported in the local Low Down newspaper, they want “the federal government to conduct a more thorough study on the environmental impact of the planned extension of Highway 5. Transport Canada released a preliminary report on the effects of the highway, which states that the spring water could be contaminated by the construction of the project.”

The highway at this point would require the blasting of rock in a water recharge area and there is concern that this could lead to the pollution of the Brown’s Lake aquifer and then possibly the local spring. Highway roundabouts are also to be built on the soccer fields near the spring.

The aquifer has been a popular source of drinking water for decades. A fact sheet (prepared by Louis Molgat) distributed at the meeting says, “Over 3000 people (mainly local) depend on the spring for their drinking water needs year round… Over 2000 more people use the spring seasonally for cottage use.”

“Approximately 2,500,000 litres of water are collected per year.” And it has the capacity to provide “enough drinking water for 50-60,000 people…”

SOS Wakefield is not saying ‘no’ to the highway, but rather it is calling for a new and more comprehensive environmental report to be carried out and for more public consultation to take place before construction of the highway is allowed.

More than 2,400 people have signed a petition supporting that demand. They have had 25-30 volunteers collecting signatures at the spring itself.

The petition has been shown to local, provincial (given groundwater is a provincial responsibility) and federal representatives, including Wakefield’s MP, Conservative cabinet minister Lawrence Cannon.

Will Amos, an area resident and lawyer with Ecojustice, was also at the meeting to suggest legal options for the group. He highlighted that Quebec has passed significant water protection legislation since an environmental assessment was conducted on this proposed highway 24 years ago and a certificate of authorization was granted.

The work on the highway is presently scheduled to begin in March 2011, but may have already been delayed due to local organizing efforts.

SOS Wakefield’s website will be up soon, so please visit http://www.soswakefield.ca.