Northern Manitoba community worried polluted water will be drained into lake

People who live around Kississing Lake in northern Manitoba are fighting a plan to drain a nearby polluted body of water into the lake.

Residents of Kississing are upset about their quality of lake water being downgraded

Polluted body of water from mine tailings shown in bottom of photo. (Submitted by Debi Hatch)

People who live around Kississing Lake in northern Manitoba are fighting a plan to drain a nearby polluted body of water into the lake.

Tailings from a retired mine in Camp Lake used to leach into nearby Kississing Lake, about 30 kilometres northeast of Flin Flon. Camp Lake is an old mine tailings lake from the 1940s and 50s. When the mine closed, the tailings were left behind, polluting the body of water. A remediation program to clean it up was started in 2009. 

When Camp Lake levels would get high, it would run into Kississing ,according to area residents. Debi Hatch said the water quality of Kississing was downgraded because of metals going into it. 

Camp Lake is bright orange and rust coloured.

"The fish that were in the area moved out of the area. You know your boats would get red from all of the metals that were in the water," Hatch said.

Outfitters, trappers concerned 

Lake Kississing is clear blue and pristine. Several lodges and outfitters are on the lake which provides employment to the local community. Trappers and wild rice growers also use the lake. It's the main resource for the community.

As part of remediation, Hatch said the province wants to drain some of Camp Lake into Kississing to take out a water treatment plant. Hatch said the plant is ineffective because it is clogged from the tailings.

"We are very upset with it because we don't know exactly what is in that water. We know the levels, some metal levels are high such as iron, zinc and copper. We want answers to what is this going to do to the microorganisms and all the aquatic life that the fish live on there. If the fish don't have anything to eat they are going to move out of the area again," she told CBC.

Hatch said area residents don't trust the government because they aren't getting any clear answers.

The province issued a statement saying: "the release of Camp Lake has been postponed while there is further consultation with the community."

"The Manitoba Government wants to lower the water in Camp Lake in a safe and responsible manner so we can complete the remediation project of Sherridon Mine. Staff from multiple departments are on site and involved, working with the community to find a way to do so. We are concerned about the possibility of an uncontrolled breach and continue to work on a number of options to reduce this risk."