In the mid-twentieth century, many lakes near Sudbury, Canada, were severely contaminated by acid and metal emissions from local smelters. For example, in the early 1970s, Middle Lake had pH of 4.2, and Cu and Ni levels both >0.5 mg L−1 . To determine if crustacean zooplankton could recover from such severe and chronic damage, Middle Lake was neutralized in 1973. A comparison of its zooplankton with that of 22 reference (pH > 6) lakes indicates that the planktonic Copepoda completely recovered by 2001. In contrast, the cladoceran assemblage improved but did not recover. Colonist sources existed – Cladocera and Copepoda occurred with equal frequency in area lakes – but six separate colonizations by cladoceran species failed. We argue that local factors, metal toxicity and predation by yellow perch, have, to date, prevented cladoceran recovery. Nonetheless, the complete copepod recovery is encouraging, given the severity and duration of pre-neutralization stress.