At the beginning of the pandemic, the Ministry of Health cancelled the testing of private drinking water sources and 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 wrote directly to the Provincial Officer of Public Health, Dr. Patel, and received no response.
In February of this year (2023) at a Council meeting, Mayor Luke Charbonneau said, “It is very concerning. 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.”
It appears that Dr. Patel now responded on April 18th in a letter to the Mayor that Public Health of Ontario has not changed its position citing “… It is not possible for PHO to add additional water sites to the existing courier route. Adding more locations to the courier route would add time, which would impact sample drop-off cut off times and PHO’s turnaround times for testing samples (all of which could potentially compromise the integrity of both clinical and water samples).”
At Monday’s Council meeting (May 8th), Councillor Dave Myette raised concern over Dr. Patel’s response. “For them to say, ‘No’ we are not going to do it and it’s not convenient, is a slap in the face. It is unacceptable.”
Mayor Charbonneau said the letter is disappointing but “… there is reason for optimism. Grey Bruce Public Health has seized the issue working with Public Health Ontario and they have committed to establishing new pick-up routes managed by Grey Bruce Public Health and, from the preliminary list of pick-up sites, Saugeen Shores will get one. It’s still in discussion but I feel very confident the problem will be solved because of the great work by Grey Bruce Public Health and not Public Health of Ontario.”