In a rare occurrence, the Vermillion River Stewardship received all $103,000 it had asked for from the Ontario Trillium Foundation to fund a research project that will sample the water quality of the Vermillion River over a two-year period.
Nickel Belt MPP France Gelinas, who has been a strong supporter for more testing of the Vermillion River, said it was the first time she has seen the Ontario Trillium Foundation hand out the full amount requested by a non-profit organization.
The grant will allow Vermillion River Stewardship to pay two technicians from Conservation Sudbury, who will work with a volunteer to test and analyze the full length of the river.
“We’ll be doing a full spectrum water quality sampling,” said Linda Heron, chair of Vermillion River Stewardship.
In October 2011, the river had a blue-green algae outbreak. Heron said the community struck a strategic planning committee to tackle the problem, and the grant to thoroughly test the water is the latest development from those early actions.
“We’re very worried about water quality on the Vermillion because a lot of us have water treatment for the river water, but we’re not sure how that works on some of the heavy metals and chemicals, and especially the toxins from blue-green algae,” Heron said.
About 15,000 people in Greater Sudbury get their drinking water from the Vermillion River. The majority draw their water from a Vale water intake, but some also draw directly from the river and use their own home filtration systems.
Heron said water testing at the river has been “spotty” in the past. The new two-year project will be the first time water is tested at all the river’s important points and tributaries. Testing will occur at a total of 25 sites.
Cliffs has said it will draw from the river for its planned smelter site. Vale draws from the river and Gelinas said there are a number of planned hydro projects along the river as well.
“We’re happy to be doing the study,” Heron said. “The city probably couldn’t have done the study to the extent that we have (planned).”