Contaminated drinking water being something of a hot-button issue in Woolwich, council wants to know why the Ministry of the Environment doesn’t test for a wider range of pollutants.
Prompted by environmental advocate Alan Marshall, the township wants an explanation for the exclusion of a range of chemicals from the province’s drinking water standards.
A list prepared by planning and engineering staff includes NDMA (N-Nitrosodimethylaimine), the contaminant in the aquifer under Elmira. Also on the list are dichloramines, trichloramines, haloacetic acids and cyanogen chloride. At Marshall’s suggestion, it was expanded to include the virus Giardia and parasite cryptosporidium.
“Additional chemical parameters need to be included, specifically common gasoline and diesel components such as toluene, ethyl benzene and xylenes. These compounds are ubiquitous in southern Ontario groundwater, and rest assured they are here in Elmira’s groundwater courtesy of numerous decades-late service station cleanups,” suggested Marshall.
Again, councillors meeting April 14 agreed.
“I don’t think it’s unreasonable. There’s no harm in adding them to the list,” said director of engineering and planning Dan Kennaley of Marshall’s request for the water to be tested for more contaminants.
Councillors also pushed for drinking water reports prepared by the Region of Waterloo to be more accessible, written in laymen’s terms without unexplained acronyms. Likewise, quantities of contaminants found should be put in context with the actual acceptable maximums allowed under the standards.
Coun. Patrick Merlihan noted the reports presented to council aren’t clear, adding that he and his colleagues need better information.
“I agree 100 per cent with his assessment,” he said of Marshall’s presentation.
Much of the discussion centered on the water system in West Montrose, where there have been concerns about quality, particularly in the raw, untreated water. In addition to pumping on site, the region regularly trucks in tanker loads of water to augment the groundwater. There, too, Marshall said more information is needed to figure out just how much of residents’ water comes from elsewhere.
Pointing out that the water system in West Montrose is influenced by the Grand River, he suggested the raw water needs to be tested for a wider range of contaminants, with the water tested again as it heads into the distribution system. The addition of chlorine to treat the water can and does create other chemicals when interacting with contaminants already in the water.
Also discussed was the broader issue of making drinking water standards more stringent in Ontario, with Marshall noting the province is behind neighbouring Quebec and jurisdictions in the U.S. He also stressed the need for enforcement of existing guidelines.
“There are many violations of standards, and the standards aren’t great to begin with,” said Marshall.