The province has made a mistake issuing a licence for a proposed sewage lagoon in East Selkirk, say local homeowners.
If the municipality goes ahead with the plan, there's a real risk carcinogenic chemicals will leach into the Red River every time the lagoon discharges effluent, local residents say.
"We want everyone to know what’s happening here," said Al Prue, the homeowner who’s leading the campaign. "We were outraged a lagoon is going on the Red River like that but (then) we found out is it’s a contaminated site that could dump into the Red River. It’s going to be a huge problem for the Red River and for Lake Winnipeg."
Manitoba Conservation gave the project its nod of approval earlier this month. About 60 people own homes near the area, and most have signed a petition against the lagoon.
The primary concern is not human health, but rather that the contaminants pose a danger to fish stocks in the river, which is a few hundred metres away, residents say.
The 30-acre site was a former explosive manufacturing plant decades ago. A 2011 engineering report showed the site was contaminated with dinitrotoluenes which are carcinogenic and toxic.
Two years later, when more testing was conducted for the province’s environmental assessment process, the chemicals weren't found.
Homeowner Dennis Petaski, whose father worked at the former explosives plant, was suspicious about the inconsistency between the provincial report and the engineering report, and says he took them to some experts for an explanation.
Petaski said an expert with the Environmental Protection Agency in the United States warned him the subsequent tests hadn’t been done properly so the chemicals wouldn’t have show up, even though in all likelihood they are still there.
The group is holding a rally in East Selkirk tonight on CIL Road at 5:15 p.m.