MAC: Mines and Communities

Canadian uranium miner creates spartan conditions for local resident

Published by MAC on 2008-08-25

Well damaged after uranium drilling

Gov't refuses to fill holes, says it's drilling company's responsibility

By Mary Moszynski, Times & Transcript

20th August 2008

FREDERICTON - Debbie Hudson has found herself hauling clothes to a laundromat and lugging bottled water back to her home several times a week.

Hudson, who lives near the Gorge Road, says her well water is so filthy as a result of uranium drilling activity in the area that it can't be used for drinking or washing clothes.

"Since February my water had turned like a yellowish colour because it's dirt getting in there. It's surface water."

Hudson, who says she tests her well each year, said the problems began in February, shortly after a uranium exploration company began drilling holes several houses away from hers. Last October, a test of her water came back clean. A test taken in July showed coliform and surface water in the well.

Four of the holes weren't filled, allowing ground water to seep into her well, she said.

"Before they came in here, my water was perfect."

And, because the holes were drilled prior to the guidelines introduced by the provincial government, the company wasn't required to test the well water prior to drilling and following completion of the project. The company also wasn't required to fill the holes with bentonite, a form of clay.

"They can leave the holes wide open and leave the province," said Hudson of the uranium companies.

After numerous phone calls and weeks of waiting, Hudson said she received a call from the Department of Natural Resources on Monday to say that the company Sparton Resources Inc is responsible for filling the holes.

However, she was also told the company officials are currently in China and would be difficult to reach.

Hudson said she doesn't understand why the government is leaving it up to her to fix the situation.

"It's coming on September. If I have to dig a new well, well I have to know because I can't live like this," she said. "I don't think they understand. I don't think they get it."

Lee Barker, president and CEO of Sparton Resources, said no one has contacted him about the situation and insists that all of the holes drilled by the company were properly filled and checked by the provincial environment department.

"Those holes have been checked three times now so, whatever, nobody's contacted us," he said, adding the holes were cemented.

Barker also said he's unaware of any damage to any wells.

However Sheri Strickland, spokeswoman for the Department of Natural Resources, acknowledged the holes weren't covered, saying it is typically the responsibility of the company to do so. Although Strickland didn't confirm the company in question is Sparton, she also said the department has contacted the responsible company.

"Although we don't know for sure if the holes are affecting the cloudiness of the water, DNR has been helping our concerned citizen in contacting the company to have these holes quickly taken care of," she wrote in an e-mail response to questions.

Uranium exploration and mining dominated the last session of the legislature and prompted protests and public meetings. Following public pressure, the Liberal government introduced a new policy that bans uranium exploration around municipalities. A moratorium is in place until government develops an online staking program.

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