Dangerous, dirty legacy — arsenic found in [Sudbury’s] Long Lake – by Mary Katherine Keown (Sudbury Star – November 29, 2013)

The Sudbury Star is the City of Greater Sudbury’s daily newspaper.

A study ordered by the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines found elevated levels of arsenic in several areas of Long Lake. The ministry, which contracted Colorado-based consulting firm CH2M Hill. The firm conducted field work in July and August. The study was released this week.

A gold mine operated 1.3 km south of the southwestern end of Long Lake from 1909 to 1939. In 1912, it was Ontario’s largest gold-producing mine, but it left behind a dirty, and dangerous, environmental legacy, including three tailings areas.

A packed house of mostly Long Lake residents and cottagers attended a presentation this week at the Holiday Inn to hear the results of the study. Researchers found the concentration of arsenic in the lake’s surface water exceeded Ontario’s drinking water quality standards of 25 parts per billion (ppb).

“It’s a very serious problem and we’re glad to see the progress,” Stephen Butcher, chair of the Long Lake Stewardship Committee, said. “The stewardship initially thought removing the tailings would be the best idea, but after watching last night’s presentation, it’s obvious nobody else wants it in their backyard, either.”

The ministry plans to remove seasonally exposed tailings to two metres below the lake’s low water level. Tailings that remain in the lake will be covered with clean sand and gravel, which will ensure they remain submerged. The ministry also plans to build a berm to contain the metal and to prevent leaching.

Butcher explained the stewardship committee had an idea of the problem’s scope.

“They’d been dropping hints to us all along,” he added. “We’ve had ongoing conversations with (the ministry). There’s no secrecy; they’re not hiding anything. It’s a wide-open process and they’ve answered any questions we ask. It wasn’t a total surprise to see what their plans were.”

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