Cattle producers lose access to Sask. river

Several cattle producers along the Wood River in south-central Saskatchewan have to move about 1,000 head to different pastures after water quality in the river declined unexpectedly.

The issue arose earlier this week after Saskatchewan Mining and Minerals, based at Chaplin, diverted water from the river for its sodium sulfate operations.

As a result, oxygen levels in the river that about a half dozen producers use to water their cattle dropped unacceptably low, according to one of those affected.

Gerry Duckworth said he knew something was wrong when he came across dozens of dead fish and an intense sewage smell.

Unable to get answers from the mining company or the province, he contacted the federal fisheries department. Environment Canada staff went to the site Aug. 3 to investigate and test the water.

Duckworth said he was told the oxygen level was less than half of one percent on the side the producers use for water but at an acceptable 11 percent on the other side of the diversion weir.

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According to the mine website, it uses a brining process to obtain sodium sulfate from Chaplin Lake. Its primary sources of fresh water are local spring runoff and precipitation. The secondary source is water from the Wood River that is moved through the diversion managed by Ducks Unlimited.

“The diverted water flows through Chaplin Creek for 11 miles before entering the first of three Heritage Marsh ponds operated by Ducks Unlimited,” said the site. “The water flows through each of the two-mile long ponds before entering the first Saskatchewan Mining and Minerals fresh-water storage area.”

The company did not return a request, but its website also notes it has the required approvals and agreements with provincial agencies and ministries to transfer water.

Ducks Unlimited said it was aware the mine was diverting water due to the extreme drought conditions and was monitoring the situation. Assessments done July 27 and 31 found no dead fish in the diversion, the organization said.

But Duckworth said there are definitely dead fish in the river.

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“They’ve dropped the river here about a foot in the last three or four days, but they’ve contaminated the river,” he said Aug. 2. “It turned the water from testing 2,100 (milligrams per litre) total dissolved solids to 4,400 in three days, and it just smells like sewage.

“And they didn’t tell anybody, they just did it.”

Duckworth said the cattle producers are out of luck for using river water the rest of the summer. Only opening the dam at Thompson Lake to put water in the river would alleviate the problem, he said, but officials aren’t likely to do that.

A provincial environmental protection officer also went to the site last week. Water quality results are expected next week.

Contact karen.briere@producer.com

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  • Glen Cruikshank Kirk

    This is only the beginning of the end of our food supply in so many ways. Then it be end of human race!

  • GreenSenior

    We are killing Earth. Thanks Sask. Mining & Minerals! Quite a legacy you leave. Hope you’re proud. http://www.PlanetInPeril.ca

    • Harold

      You are mistaking the WE for the THEY and placing yourself in a position to be punished and taxed. Those of us (WE) who know better are focused on punishing the THEY and don’t give a damn if they are proud; it is done by consumers (WE) directing their dollar. The consumer cannot direct their dollar if they don’t have that dollar. Taxation (your punishment) is the removal of that dollar so that the government puppets (politicians) of industry can free of hand direct that dollar instead, and as the Paris Accord; $Billions OUT OF OUR COUNTRY. The consumer cannot direct their dollar appropriate to conscience unless they are informed and information has been denied and held in secrecy by those who Tax WE and control the Media. The Government and the Elite know that if they limit information (facts) that a blind faith occurs in place of and then WE their sheep. Sheep do not know what the shepherd knows and know only the rhetoric of the shepherds guiding staff and force. In contrast, WE given all facts are partners with government and the elite secondary.
      Cutting off the funding of Mining & Minerals after a wrong doing is exposed does what TODAY? Where does Mining & Minerals get their funding?
      Are you following? Do WE need the opinion of Ducks unlimited or do WE need the opinion of Mining & minerals – after their funds/license have been cut. Notice that WE are denied any partnership by design of government. It is the WE who are in peril and the THEY who are not; Planet in peril BS ca is not a go-to source. “hope you’re proud” shows your lack of power likely gifted to you by planet in peril and our government. Does planet in peril BS ca explain how Canadians (WE) can take back our government which is now owned by the global Elite? (THEY)
      THEY are likely still just entertaining the masses. (THEY play both sides)

  • Kissing optional

    Congratulations to Western Producer for getting out front on this news article. I was hoping for an update on all the ‘refused to comment’ players in this case, as there is not a peep from other news agencies.
    I hope an update will soon be available.
    This is just one more glaring example of the problem of gutting government inspections and hoping industry will monitor and police themselves.

    • Kissing optional

      And here we are, one week later, and …nothing…. nothing from the ‘no comment’ players, some of whom work for us.

  • Kissing optional

    Twenty four days after the article was first printed, no follow up, no release of reports, no industry statement and no government statement.
    I guess with the now former Minister of the Environment having stepped down to take a run a being premier, the environment portfolio is apparently irrelevant to the people of Saskatchewan, or more succinctly, this province’s government, as well as the article’s author.

  • eric

    I would not expect a low oxygen level could be detrimental to cattle .as cattle get their oxygen from the air . cattle can stand pretty dirty water too . We have heard enough of this story to come to any reasonable conclusions .