'No trust whatsoever': Northern Manitoba community wants consultation, not action, on mine rehabilitation
Province began rehabilitating Sherridon's polluted lake in 2009, now wants to connect it to clean lake
A northern Manitoba community councillor says people in her area no longer trust the province to properly clean up pollution left behind by an old mine, eight years into the rehabilitation process.
"We're the ones that are going to be left here once everybody packs up and goes back home," said Debi Hatch, a community councillor for Sherridon, Man., about 650 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg. "And we're going to be left with, does it work?
But Hatch said the community isn't confident the lake is healthy enough to support the fish and worries it will hurt the fish population in Kississing Lake. She said the lake is the community's main resource
"It means everything," she said. "People — they get their food from it, there's lodges on the lake, there's lots of boating, kids swim in it."
Last week, community members set up a road blockade on the highway into the area to prevent provincial equipment from entering, but took it down around an hour later after learning the province had put the project on hold.
A spokesperson for Manitoba Mineral Resources told CBC News remaining work won't be done until the province consults further with the community.
"We are working to repair relationships and build trust with the community in order to complete the final stages of the project, which are necessary to sustain the quality of water in Camp Lake for the long term," the spokesperson said in an email.
'We see it change'
"In the old days, there [were] no regulations, so they created all kinds of environmental disasters, really," Hatch said.
"They left a whole bunch of mine tailings on the earth here in our community, right in our community, actually, and over the years that oxidized and turned all a nice bright orange colour."
Right after the spring thaw, lime sprinkled on the ice on Camp Lake drags iron down to the bottom so the lake looks clean, Hatch said. But when the water is stirred by wind, the lake starts to look more like a bowl of tomato soup.
The spokesperson said testing has indicated that the quality of water in Camp Lake is suitable to support fish and other aquatic life, despite its colour. Water from the lake is analyzed in a lab by an independent, accredited environmental laboratory, and it has been tested more than a dozen times since June 1.
Hatch isn't convinced.
She said the community has lost faith in what the province tells them about the lakes and wants answers to their questions about the health of the ecosystems.
"There is no trust whatsoever left," she said.