Two years after finding troubling levels of arsenic in a Sudbury area lake, concerned residents are relieved to hear the province is moving forward on cleaning up an old gold mine site located nearby.

The Long Lake Gold Mine operated in the early 1900s and again in the 1930s. Although there has been some exploration in the area in recent years, all that remains at the site are ruins and a pit full of blue water.

A conservation group called Long Lake Stewardship took water and soil samples near the abandoned mine two years ago and found elevated levels of arsenic.

"The so-called beach, which was washed-in tailings from that mine, was a popular site, even though the residents make an effort to warn people not to go on there," said Stephen Butcher, the chair of Long Lake Stewardship.

Waiting for action

Group members took the results of the soil and water tests to provincial officials, but initially there was no response, Butcher said.

"We’ve gone from being totally ignored about the problem two years ago to having full co-operation from the ministry, so we are very pleased," he added.

Officials from the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines met this week with Long Lake residents to discuss plans for the clean-up.

Butcher said a consultant will be hired in 2013 to determine the extent of the problem. The ministry will then present options to residents for remediating the site.

The actual clean-up is expected to start in 2015 and will take years to complete.

Drinking water concerns

In the meantime, people with properties near the abandoned mine have been advised to avoid drinking lake water, said Burgess Hawkins from the Sudbury and District Health Unit.

"We had put out a letter to the residents indicating this and suggesting that they look at an alternative source for drinking," said Hawkins. "Be it bottled water or to put on some sort of treatment system."

The levels of arsenic found in the southwest corner of the lake exceed the Ontario standards for drinking water, said Hawkins. But he added that drawing drinking water from the rest of Long Lake is not a concern.

No one from the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines has been available to answer questions about the clean-up and how much it will cost.

Initial estimates presented by the ministry show it will require millions of dollars to fully remediate the site, Butcher said.