Province appears to ignore the importance of water testing despite the Clean Water Act

Several months ago, the Ministry of Health cancelled the testing of private drinking water sources and, at the beginning of the pandemic, stopped collecting water samples at hospitals.

The service has not, as yet, been restored despite considerable efforts by the Municipality of Saugeen Shores, local Public Health and the County of Bruce, all of whom have written directly to the Provincial Officer of Public Health, Dr. Patel, and received no response.

“It is very concerning,” said Mayor Luke Charbonneau at a recent meeting of Council.  “If it has not led people to have their water tested, it certainly will.  We made this very clear to the Minister of Health at ROMA (Rural Ontario Municipal Association) but have not heard anything back from our delegation … nor has Dr. Patel responded to my letter.”

The Mayor pointed out that people are going to get sick. “I don’t know if the Province is not paying attention and we are only 40 minutes from the town of Walkerton and we know what happened there when there were issues with drinking water.”

The Walkerton E. coli outbreak was the result of a contamination of the drinking water supply of Walkerton, with E. coli and bacteria. The water supply was contaminated as a result of improper water treatment following heavy rainfall in late April and early May, 2000  resulting in some 2,300 people becoming sick, leaving them with long-lasting chronic illness, and seven deaths.  As a result of a judicial inquiry, stricter water treatment guidelines were put in place by the government and the Clean Water Act, to protect municipal drinking water, was put in place in May, 2020.

Once again however, 20 years after the Walkerton tragedy, it appears that the  province continues trying to circumvent the environment with cuts to oversight of drinking water safety and to ignore what may be a path to another tragedy.

“The fact that we cannot get the restoration of a service that existed forever … (means) that people from Saugeen Shores, Arran-Elderslie, Kincardine and Saugeen First Nation cannot get their water tested.”

Dr. Arra, Officer of Public Health for Grey Bruce, put together a presentation to Public Health Ontario showing that “… it would take 10 minutes from their route to come to the Plex to collect water samples”.

“Public Health Ontario said ‘NO’ right to his face,” said the Mayor. “So it’s frustrating.  It’s annoying.  I would suggest that everyone who is on private wells should write letters to the Minister of Health and the Province of Ontario to echo their dissatisfaction with the province’s (non)response on this important issue. “