Five Island Lake Remediation

A set of pages on the website of the N.S. Dept. of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal dealing with the PCB contamination at Five Island Lake ( was removed in 2010. These pages included access to 14 newsletters updating the public on the remediation process and state of the affected waters. Presumably, these newsletters could still be obtained by request to the Dept. of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal.

An extract from a WRWEO newsletter which provides an overview of the history of this issue is given below as well as the contents of several government documents (mostly press releases) about this issue that are still available on NS Government website. See also the Jacques Whitford/Stantec Reports.

From WRWEO WATCH (Vol 5 No. 1, May 2008)

PCB Contamination in Fish from Five Island Lake As many of you know, in 1994 after a leakage of transformer fluid containing PCBs into the North Bay of Five Island Lake, the Province collaborated with citizens in the area to establish a liaison group to work with the government in developing and carrying out a remediation procedure. The Five Island Lake Community Liaison Committee (CLC) began then and WRWEO has had representation there since 1995. The Province working with CLC began to clean up the contaminated area around the bay and dredged the Bay itself. The remediation took place over a period of 10 years. Although PCBs are not water soluble, once they are in the silt at the bottom of a lake, they work their way up the food chain and are eventually found in the fatty tissue of fish and loons that eat the fish. For this reason consumers of these fish should exercise caution and limit their consumption (for guidelines see the Guide to Eating Ontario Sport Fish, 2007-8 edition). There is currently a catch-and-release policy for fishing on Five Island Lake and a number of other lakes, such as Frederick, Sheldrake, and Birch Hill as well as downstream in Woodens River. Testing of fish has been done in 1994, 2001, 2003, 2005, and 2007. The most recent tests show unacceptable levels of PCBs remain in the fish in Five Island Lake. At a public meeting on May 7 at the Tantallon Public Library hosted by FBWHT with representation from the NS Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal (NSDTIR) and the NS Department of Inland Fisheries (NSDIF) the issues around health and fish stock management were discussed. A number of anglers from the lower watershed who fish the Woodens River maintained that the trout are plentiful and argued that the catch-and-release policy should be lifted. Other anglers opposed lifting the ban for conservation reasons. A proposal was made by some persons attending the meeting to test fish in the Woodens River and lower lakes. NSDTIR and NSDIF said that they would take this suggestion and others made at the meeting under consideration. To read the 14 newsletters on the clean up, google 'Five Island Lake' and click on 'Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal', then click on 'Community Liaison Committee' and 'Newsletter'

Success at Five Island Lake Watershed

Department of Transportation and Public Works

January 22, 2002 1:41 PM

The province has completed the final phase in a three-year
project to remove sediment contaminated with polychlorinated
biphenyl (PCB) from the North Bay of Five Island Lake, west of
Halifax. The dredging removed more than 98.5 per cent of the PCBs
from the bay.

As a result, and based on recommendations from Nova Scotia's
Medical Officer of Health, boaters and swimmers will be able to
use the North Bay of Five Island Lake next summer.

Dr. Robert Strang of the Department of Health said the results of
comprehensive fish sampling last year mean two advisories against
use can be lifted.

-- The advisory against eating fish caught in nine local lakes
can be withdrawn. It remains in effect for Five Island Lake,
which will require further monitoring for several years. However,
fish caught in these lakes must be released immediately, because
of low stocks.

-- The advisory against boating and swimming in North Bay of Five
Island Lake is also lifted.

The province has worked closely with the Five Island Lake
Community Liaison Committee since 1994, after it was discovered
that high concentrations of PCBs were present in four fish
species -- trout, bass, minnows and suckers.

"It's great news, and shows what can be accomplished when the
community and government set aside their differences and work
together," said John Hoyt, co-chair of the Community Liaison
Committee. "I'm proud of the commitment and dedication of
residents who worked long and hard to reach this milestone."

"The dredging came in on time and on budget," said Ron Russell,
Minister of Transportation and Public Works. "A project of this
scope takes time and effort. I thank area residents and the
committee for their patience and for working with government to
manage this situation. I look forward to working with them as we
continue this cleanup."

Since the dredging began in 1999, contractors have removed 6,850
tonnes of contaminated sediment. The more highly contaminated
material was destroyed and the less-contaminated material was
disposed of at approved landfills. The entire project was
carefully managed under environmental regulations and strict
operating permits from the Department of Environment and Labour.

Dexter Construction was the prime contractor on this recent phase
of the cleanup, with help from two sub-contractors: Safety Kleen
and Matrix Environment. The Transportation and Public Works 2001-
02 budget for the dredging and related work was $1.9 million.

When fish were sampled in 1994 the highest PCB concentration in
fish muscle was 68 parts per million (ppm). By comparison, when
more than 100 fish were collected and analyzed for PCBs in 2001,
all fish were found to have less than 4.5 ppm in muscle. Three
fish exceeded Health Canada's guideline number of 2.0 ppm and
these were caught in Five Island Lake. Overall, tests show that
PCB levels within various fish species have dropped by between 87
and 99 per cent compared to 1994 values.

In order to rebuild fish stocks, the Department of Agriculture
and Fisheries has designated the Woodens River Watershed as part
of a special management area. So, while the health advisories
have been removed for most of the area, a catch-and-release
program will still apply to these lakes for some time to come.

The salvage-yard site has been fenced, graded and capped in order
to contain the remaining contamination.

Five Island Lake Cleanup Advances

Department of Transportation and Public Works (to Oct. 23 2007)

May 30, 2000 2:30 PM

The final phase of the environmental cleanup of the north bay at
Five Island Lake, Halifax County, is about to start. The
Department of Transportation and Public Works has put out a
tender for the second phase of dredging the PCB-contaminated
sediment in the north bay.

John Hoyt, chairman of the Five Island Lake Community Liaison
Committee said the dream of enjoying the entire lake again is
finally within sight.

"The people in this community are proud of what we've done with
the government these past six years," said Mr. Hoyt. "Removing
the PCBs from the north bay will be an enormous step in
protecting this beautiful watershed from further damage. And it
proves that community groups and government can work together."

The tender closes June 15. Work should begin in July and be
completed in the fall. The provincial government committed the
necessary funding in this year's budget to complete the dredging
and disposal work.

"The community in general and the community liaison committee in
particular, have been wonderfully supportive and constructive
every step of the way," said Ron Russell, Minister of
Transportation and Public Works. "And now we are close to
achieving our goal of reclaiming the entire lake for the people
and for the environment."

The first phase of dredging was finished in early April. So far,
58 trailer loads of contaminated sediments have been sent to
Quebec for disposal.

The PCB contamination is the sad legacy of what is now recognized
as poor disposal practises in the1960s and 1970s.


     The final stage of the cleanup of the north bay at Five

Island Lake is about to begin.

     The province has put out a tender for the second phase of

dredging the PCB-contaminated sediment in the Halifax County


     The PCB's were left behind in the '60s and '70s.

     Community spokesman John Hoyt says people are proud of the

way the cleanup effort has gone - and excited about the prospect

of using the entire lake again.

     Transportation and Public Works Minister Ron Russell says

it's a big step forward for the community and for the


     The dredging work should start in the north bay in July and

be completed in the fall.

News Release Archive




Transportation and Public Works Minister Don Downe said today

that the province is prepared to act on a report by a citizens

liaison committee, called "A Strategy To Clean Up PCB

Contaminated Sediments in Five Island Lake."

"I'm very encouraged by the cooperation among the liaison

committee, the residents of the Five Island Lake area and the

people in government departments who have worked hard for the

last two years to put forward this remediation strategy," said

Mr. Downe. "All recommendations in the report will be considered

on their merits before final decisions on clean-up can be made."

The minister said a control weir would be built to help block off

the contaminated North Bay from flowing into Five Island Lake.

It's a step that should be taken no matter what remediation

option is ultimately chosen, Mr. Downe said. The minister also

said he supports providing temporary water access to Five Island

Lake for the residents of North Bay.

The Five Island Lake Citizens Liaison Committee was formed two

years ago to plan a clean-up strategy for PCB oils that had been

released into the residential community through improper disposal

practices at a local salvage yard. Following some 28 meetings,

held over a two year period, the community has been informed of 

the committee's progress and plans through public meetings,

newsletters, and smaller group discussions.

"This community is dealing with a difficult environmental problem

in a very practical and sensible way. I commend their efforts and

look forward to working with them in the future," said Mr. Downe.

"This has been a model of how public consultation works."

Various remediation efforts have taken place including the

containment of a contaminated salvage yard. This particular

remediation plan, submitted to the Minister of Transportation and

Public Works and Environment Minister Wayne Adams, looks at a

strategy to clean up PCB contaminated sediments in the North Bay

of Five Island Lake.

Mr. Adams was enthusiastic about continuing to involve the

community as the process goes forward. "The community has taken a

strong leadership role in this process and we have to make sure

their voices are heard," he said.


Contact: Public Affairs and Communications  902-424-8687

         John Hoyt                          902-876-2722

trp                       Dec. 19, 1996 - 8:40 a.m.
Publications of the Province of Nova Scotia
Monthly Checklist
December 1996
Volume 10, Number 12
Five Island Lake Community Liaison Committee
A strategy to clean up PCB contaminated sediments in Five Islands Lake. [Halifax] 1996.
1 v. (various pagings) Report submitted to the Hon. Wayne Adams, Minister of Environment
and the Hon. Don Downe, Minister of Transportation and Public Works. "December 1996".
Spiral binding. Limited distribution