A group of residents from the RM of Keys are raising concerns about water quality over a proposal for a new Hutterite colony and intensive livestock operation.

“We’re all concerned about what the effects of this thing will be,” said Crystal Lake resident Judith Young.

The proposed site is far northern section of the RM of Keys, north east of Crystal Lake and south of the village of Stenen. Opponents of the project say it’s located above a fresh-water aquifer that supplies drinking water for much of the area, including the Stenen well, located right across Highway 49 from the site.

“We realized all of a sudden, it’s only about a mile and a half away from the village, and we got real concerned about the water and the pollution,” said Mayor of Stenen Victor Wasylenchuk.

CTV News reached out to the Hutterites behind the project, but they declined to comment.

The Saskatchewan ministry of agriculture says it has received an application from the Hutterites for the construction of a livestock operation with around two thousand units of poultry, along with twenty units of dairy.

“They just submitted the application, so that’s part of what they need to do is identify those water resources,” said Andy Jansen with the ministry of agriculture. “Then we’ll evaluate whether there’s risks, and that they’ve mitigated those.”

The RM says the project is still in the preliminary stages of planning, and the only thing the council has formally discussed is a change that would allow for the colony’s housing to be developed, but not the livestock operation.

“It’s not about the ILO, it’s only about the communal dwellings of the colony,” said Reeve of the RM of Keys Garth Bates.

At a heated RM meeting in Canora earlier this month, many residents said they felt the RM was moving too quickly on the plans after the bylaw changes passed second reading.

“We held off on a third reading, waiting for other information to do with the ILO, but they are two separate issues,” said Bates.

Young and a group of other residents have now delivered a petition to the RM in hopes of forcing a referendum on the issue, and until that happens would prefer to see discussions halted altogether.

“Our goal here is to cease and desist activity right now,” Young said. “Have a referendum where all of the ratepayers get an opportunity to express how they feel about this and what they think about it.”

The RM is planning to hold a public meeting on the issue in May. It’s there residents hope to find more answers about what the livestock operation would mean for the surrounding area and its residents.