Thurstonia Park oil spill has residents concerned

Leaks into Sturgeon Lake is the latest issue with spill

By Kirk Winter

Since the odour of fuel oil was first discovered in a ditch near Pitts Cove in Thurstonia Park on March 30, local residents have found themselves frustrated by the slow pace of cleanup, led by the provincial Ministry of the Environment.

The frustration has grown as leaking fuel oil has now spread from where it was first discovered to Sturgeon Lake, a source of household water for a number of properties in the community.

Jackie Hellawell, who has lived in Thurstonia Park for 17 years, told the Advocate in a series of emails and a telephone interview that when the odour of fuel oil was detected in that ditch, residents contacted the Kawartha Lakes Fire Service who responded immediately and “did what they could to stop/clean up some of the oil in the ditch.”

After that initial response, Hellawell has more questions than answers about a clean-up process that is now entering its third week with no end in sight.

“From the 30th of March until April 3rd residents in Thurstonia Park were not notified they couldn’t use the water from the lake,” Hellawell said. “On April 3rd some but not all of the residents received notices from the health unit stating they could not use their water for anything until notified.”

Considering the seriousness of this leak and how close it is to Sturgeon Lake, Hellawell is baffled that clean-up efforts did not continue over the Easter long weekend, allowing oil to spread further.

“Do oil spills take breaks?” Hellawell said.

Hellawell is very concerned that as more fuel oil continues to leak into the lake, from a source that has not yet been identified according to Ward Six Councillor Ron Ashmore, long term damage will be done to the lake and its fragile ecosystem. Hellawell worries about the possibility that the groundwater in the community will be contaminated as it was when a similar leak occurred almost 20 years ago that left many of the people living in Thurstonia Park without potable water of any kind for an extended time period.

“We are being buried by bureaucracy right now,” Hellawell said. “The city points to the province and the health unit saying it is their responsibility and even with all these groups involved we still know very little about what is going on. We need someone at some level to issue a statement that will address many of the concerns we have. No one but our councillor Ron Ashmore seems to care that we have 30 residents here in Thurstonia Park right now who, because they pump out of the lake, cannot use any water at all for any reason. No level of government has set up a centre for these people to go to so they can just take a shower. The municipality needs to show they care about the people of Thurstonia Park.”

With the onset of summer-like weather this last week, Thurstonia Park residents have been unsure whether all the waterfront is unsafe, and whether they should keep their children and pets away from the lake. The corpses of a dead blue heron and a rat found near the containment area have people in Thurstonia Park very concerned for their own wellbeing.

“We pay good money to rent docks from the city,” Hellawell said. “Is it safe to put our docks in? Should there be signs posted warning people to stay out of the water?”

Hellawell says that the responses from all levels of government involved have been confused. She wonders with this kind of messaging what the local AirBnbs that dot the park are telling their customers about availability during the upcoming rental season.

Hellawell plans to touch base with the Trent-Severn Waterways and MPP Laurie Scott on Monday to see where they are on this unfolding environmental emergency.

“We, the residents of Thurstonia Park,” Hellawell said, “have received no information about when the spill is likely to be cleaned up, the cost and implications of the matter, and who is responsible for it. How much damage will this do to our lake in the long run? There shouldn’t be long weekend breaks during a disaster like this. People are without water, ecosystems are in jeopardy and our community has been kept in the dark by (all) levels of government.”


  1. Wayne Medford says:

    Environment is Provincial responsibility….Laurie Scott is the responsible contact. Period.

    • The City is responsible for resident welfare needs. As Jackie correctly observes, the City should provide safe drinking water and showers, as well as take the lead for communication. Residents need to be kept in the loop.

    • Jackie Hellawell says:

      Until you email her office and get this as a response “The oil spill on Sturgeon Lake is being addressed by The City of Kawartha Lakes, the local office of the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks as well as the Haliburton Kawartha Pine Ridge Public Health Unit.
      The City of Kawartha Lakes is working diligently to mitigate the affects of the spill and it seems that it is moving along” Period….residents here have contacted everyone we possibly can and are almost a month deep with this spill in our community with no answers to any of the questions we are asking. It seems to be getting cleaned up? If you consider moving containment booms further down our lake front from the original point of entry as it spread cleaning it up then great job province and municipality

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