The Lay of the Water Over Mississippi Lands
By Cathy Keddy
The Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists’ (MVFN) public lecture series, Biodiversity and Vital Connections for Fauna, Flora, and People, continues April 21 with the seventh presentation, “The Lay of the Water Over Mississippi Lands.” You do not need to be an expert to enjoy these lectures—just bring your curiosity or appreciation for the environment and wild nature.
How often do you give a thought to a glass of water? Well, if you live in Lanark, the answer may be quite often, however for most of us the answer is likely to be, rarely if ever. Most of us take this essential resource for granted—the water that comprises 70% of our body mass, expecting always to have an unending supply to do everything we wish. We even have the luxury of using water fit for drinking to flush our toilets! On average we use 300 l of water each day! Compare this to the water ‘footprint’ of the average citizen of Mozambique (4 l/d), Cambodia (15 l/d), England (149 l/d), Japan (374 l/d) or the US (575 l/d).
Here in the Mississippi Valley, why do we have such a plentiful supply of good, clean water? The answer lies in the lay of the water over and under the lands of the Mississippi watershed. Watershed . . . catchment area . . .drainage basin . . . whatever term we use, water, the essential element of all life in our area enters the Mississippi River Valley we call home, spends time in it, and then leaves.
From its headwaters above Upper Mazinaw Lake till it reaches the Ottawa River, the Mississippi River, over 200 km in length, is associated with over 250 lakes and countless wetlands. With 19 constructed dams (average of one every 10 km!), its flow is governed largely by human desires. Covering an area roughly 3765 km2 (3/4 the size of PEI) the lands of the watershed include large forests, small tracts of agricultural land, limited industry, and the many small towns and villages we know so well. The surface geology ranges from a thin veneer of till over Precambrian rock in the northwest (great for groundwater infiltration), to thick Champlain Sea clays near the outlet (great for surface runoff in a storm event).
At MVFN’s upcoming presentation, speaker Patricia Larkin will explore water diversity and tell us about the lay of our water and how land cover, surficial geology and flow influence its quality and quantity for our use and the health of our natural environment. Larkin is an award-winning environmental educator who delivered the successful MVFN-sponsored Engaging Grade 8’s in Source Water Protection program in local schools in 2009. Larkin currently is a member of the Mississippi-Rideau Source Protection Committee and recent winner of a Tri-Valley Conservation Award for her work in protecting local waterways and fostering an understanding of water as a resource.
Learn the lay of your water, and develop an appreciation for it. Wet behind the ears about water? Then bring your hard, heavy, fresh, and stagnant water questions to this presentation “The Lay of the Water Over Mississippi Lands,” Thursday April 21, 7:30pm., Almonte United Church Hall, Almonte. All are welcome ($5 fee for non-members). For further information please contact MVFN’s Program Chair Cathy Keddy at 613-257-3089.
Uranium Exploration/Mining Risks to Source Water Protection Areas
Due to the recent activity of uranium exploration companies, several Source Water Protection (SWP) regions in Eastern Ontario are potentially at risk. Uranium exploration companies have been active in the Mississippi-Rideau watershed as well as in Haliburton and West Quebec. Additional areas may in time be affected by uranium exploration when one considers data from Geological Surveys.
Beginning in June 2007 MVFN has been involved in raising awareness of issues relating to the environmental risks posed by uranium mining in the Mississippi-Rideau SWP region. For a historical review of MVFN’s involvement and the issue see an article http://mvfn.ca/?p=415 posted here in January.
Later at the inaugural meeting of the Mississippi Rideau Source Water Protection (MSRWP) committee in January 2008, a member inquiry was tabled by MRSWP Committee member Patricia Larkin requesting that a report be prepared to provide a better understanding of the “potential impacts of uranium exploration, mining and processing in Eastern Ontario and the legislative scope of the Clean Water Act to respond to these concerns”. They were also to inform neighboring SWP regions. We informed other NGO members of the Water Guardians Network, of the issue. The following other SWP regions should be most aware: Quinte, South Nation, Cataraqui and the ‘Trent Conservation Coalition.’
The local conservation authority has also produced a preliminary staff report with regards to the threat posed by uranium exploration and mining in the MRSWP region. This report and the member inquiry can be found in the minutes of the February 7, 2008 meeting of the MRSWP Committee (a large pdf file) at the following link http://mrsourcewater.ca/committee/agendas_minutes/Feb72008AgendaPackage.pdf.
We have also posted CItizens’ Uranium Inquiry Submission Sharbot Lake April 1, 2008 to provide a wider context for the issue as it may affect neighbouring SWP regions . Please note this is also a large pdf file.
Howard Robinson, MVFN
Perspective on Uranium Exploration and Mining in the Mississippi Watershed
-summary report prepared Jan 12, 2008
by Howard Robinson (VP, MVFN)
Concerns about the exploration of Uranium in North Frontenac township range from First Nations land disputes, environmental concerns, clean drinking water, clean air, species at risk, property prices, impact on Tourism and the local exploration work opportunities. The following is written from a Source Water Protection focus and the natural environment.
Frontenac Ventures Corporation (FVC) has claim staked 30,000 acres of both private and crown land for the purpose of Uranium exploration. The company is now in the latter stages of exploration and they plan to take core samples in strategic areas on the property. The claimed property includes various small lakes, wetlands as well as the eastern shore and part of Crotch Lake.
The main stem Mississippi River flows through the staked property. Carleton Place is the first town on the river that takes water from the Mississippi River some 30km downstream (2 day water flow). The Mississippi River then flows through Almonte (Aquifer water supply) to the Ottawa River where Ottawa takes its water supply. There are private wells adjacent to the prospected area but there are no municipal wells in close proximity. The creation of future municipal wells in the area should be considered if exploration continues. The Mississippi Valley Conservation Authority has taken the initiative to conduct a well-water quality sampling program to obtain a general understanding of the ground water conditions in the staked mining exploration area and to obtain a water quality baseline.
First Nations and their supporters are calling for a moratorium on Uranium exploration and mining in Eastern Ontario to protect the natural environment, including public heath with regards to air and water quality should Uranium be extracted or disturbed from the rock. Numerous townships, Counties and organizations have provided letters of support for the moratorium.
FVC was blocked (since June 28th 2007) from entering the property owing to a peaceful blockade by local First Nations groups along with supportive non-natives or settlers. The First Nations has a land claim on most of the property however the Provincial government under the Mining Act has allowed a land use permit to FVC. FVC obtained a Provincial court injunction which was served giving the company access to the property for non-drilling work pending the outcome of mediation talks between the Provincial and Federal Governments, Algonquin First Nations and Frontenac Ventures Corporation. The process is currently scheduled to expire on January 28th 2008 unless extended.
While current exploration activity may not directly affect municipal water systems covered by the Clean Water Act because of dilution over proximity distance, it may have an impact on private wells in the area and general airborne contamination. Other concerns related to source water protection include the safety of tailings ponds from natural causes or human accidents.
According to the Geological Survey of Canada the areas of Uranium significance cover a much larger area in Eastern Ontario and West Quebec. These zones also map into adjacent Source Water Protection regions. If current prospecting results prove feasible, then more exploration could result. Another exploration company ‘RJK’ is also actively exploring in the Mississippi Valley.
From a Clean Water Act perspective, ‘No risk’ is preferred to ‘Low risk’. A possible solution would be to place a moratorium on Uranium exploration, mining and processing within the Source Water Protection (SWP) Regions until the risks are fully understood and mitigated. See the following link for a mapping of current Source Water Protection regions.
As Stewards for the Natural environment and member of the Water Guardians Network in conjunction with the Clean Water Act, MVFN has escalated several major concerns to appropriate agencies as well as writing the Premier and applicable ministries.
• The above concern was first reported as a potential threat to Water Guardians and our Conservation Authority associated with Source Water Protection in June 2007. For Information on the Water Guardians Network see http://www.thewaterhole.ca/home.htm
• Our MVFN representative is active on the newly formed Source Water Committee (SWC) for our Source Water Protection (SWP) region. A member Inquiry was successfully introduced on the above subject at the inaugural meeting Jan 10th 2008 which was unanimously accepted by the committee, thereby making the inquiry official for our local conservation authority. For more information on Source Water Protection in our watershed see http://mrsourcewater.ca/welcome/index.html
• From an environmental perspective, the Algonquin to Adirondack (A2A) Conservation initiative would be impacted if mining is established. Uranium zones shown by the Geological Survey of Canada demonstrate this impact when mapped to the plan. The mapping of this concern is shown as slides in uranium-zones-in-a2a.pdf This concern has been escalated and accepted by the A2A association and that of Ontario Nature through the Western director. For more information on the A2A Conservation Initiative see http://www.a2alink.org/index.html
• MVFN members have privately or through other organizational associations provided input to the Provincial Government Environmental Registry for the review of the current claim staking and mineral exploration process as part of the Mining Act as of September 26th 2007. The government is proceeding through the review process on this topic. For more information see EBR 010-1018 at http://www.ebr.gov.on.ca/ERS-WEB-External/displaynoticecontent.do?noticeId=MTAxMDIx&statusId=MTUwOTE1&language=en
Other Information Links:
• For information on Frontenac Ventures Corporation see http://www.frontenacventures.com Unfortunately corporate information on their exploration details at on this link appears to have been removed at this time.
• For more information mainly with respect to the science of Uranium see http://ccamu.ca/
• Research Information site for Dr Gordon Edwards of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility
• Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission http://www.nuclearsafety.gc.ca/eng/
• Uranium Activity in Ontario per the following ministry poster http://www.mndm.gov.on.ca/mndm/mines/ogs/posters/PDAC_07/PDAC_Uranium_2007.pdf
** A warning for dial-up users. The Poster is a large detailed file greater than 2.5MB.
Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists
Cliff Bennet Project Co-ordinator
Report on results of Lake and River Water-Temperature Monitoring in the Mississippi Watershed:
Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists carried out a lake and river temperature monitoring program over the August 2006 long weekend as an `Open Doors to Nature Project’in celebration of the 75th Anniversary of Ontario Nature (Federation of Ontario Naturalists). A short report outlining the objectives and results was prepared by Paul Egginton, MVFN.
At the end of December 2006, all of the raw data plus copies of the report were deposited at the offices of Mississippi Valley Conservation in Lanark, and are available for viewing there. The report is also posted here. A final report with additional peripheral data important for putting the survey findings into perspective, will also be posted.
By all counts this project was a great success. We measured our patient’s temperature (the Mississippi Watershed) and found it to be, on the basis of nearly 675 surface-readings (and nearly 1400 readings in all), on average, about 26.4 C. Many scientists are warning that air temperatures will continue to rise. Lake and river temperatures will surely follow and there may be significant impacts on the Mississippi Watershed.
To help us adapt to such change it will be very useful to know whether mid-summer water temperatures do increase in future and at what rate. Our report suggests that there is more work to be done. However, MVFN wishes to sincerely thank all those who encouraged, supported and took part in this water-temperature monitoring effort. Special thanks to Susan Lee of Mississippi Valley Conservation who contributed greatly by providing logistical support for this project.