A group of residents concerned about the future of Porcupine Lake have earned a small victory.
Friends of the Porcupine River Watershed, and the Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA) held a public information session this week at the Senator Hotel.
More than 50 people, including about 10 people running in the upcoming municipal election, were at the hour-long meeting to hear about environmental issues and rights.
After the session, the local group confirmed a sit down with reps from the City of Timmins and CELA, a non-profit specialty law clinic.
“It’s a very big win, we’ve been waiting for this for a very long time. We’ve been rejected, we’ve been pounding on the door politely to try to get through to them and I guess finally today has worked,” said Brenda Torresan, who is on the interim board for the Friends of the Porcupine River Watershed.
With sewage being bypassed into Porcupine Lake, residents concerned about the future of the lake connected with CELA earlier this year to look at potential options to clean it up.
Recently the Friends of the Porcupine River Watershed and the Porcupine Lake Information Group merged to form a new Friends of the Porcupine River Watershed to create a stronger voice and community presence.
By sitting down with the city and CELA, Torresan said the goal is to have transparency with all the groups involved.
“We need to know what’s happening so that when people ask us we can give them the correct answer,” she said.
CELA lawyer Jacqueline Wilson said a meeting with the city is a really good first step.
“As the Friends of the Porcupine River Watershed have been stressing, we’re really interested in having community members be involved in environmental decision making. Decisions are always stronger when you have broad public input, broad public consultation and so the first step is opening communication lines,” she said.
CELA will also be getting a better feel for what is happening with the pumping stations at Porcupine on their trip.
“We’re currently engaged with the issue, we’re concerned as well. We’re concerned about the wastewater bypasses and the quality of water across the province and so our role right now is simply looking at the issue, trying to lend some expertise and working with the Friends to resolve the issue,” Wilson said.
The presentation looked at the different tools that are available for residents.
For example, there is a National Pollutant Release Inventory — a publicly accessible inventory of pollutant releases, disposals and transfers — and the provincial Access Environment, which has information on environmental approvals and registrations.
The one thing Wilson said people should take away from the session is to get information and get involved.
“There are a lot of environmental issues in every community, including Timmins, and it’s important to know about them and to deal with them and to move forward,” she said.
Next up for the Friends of the Porcupine River Watershed is an annual meeting Nov. 8 at 6:30 p.m. at Northern College.