Council takes steps to protect town’s drinking water

By Karen Fallon

Council was informed at its recent meeting that a by-law is needed to protect the town’s portable water system from cross contamination.

“The Ministry of the Environment has been consistently alerting municipalities to the risk of failing to implement the cross connection control program,” said David Gibson, appointed building official for the town.

After conducting an audit of the town’s water supply, says Gibson, the MOE has indicated that Amherstburg does not have a comprehensive cross connection control program.

Over the past year, Gibson a certified cross-connection control specialist from Preview Inspections and Consulting, has been conducting a check of municipal buildings to ensure that the town’s drinking water wasn’t subject to contamination via cross connection.

“A cross connection is a connection between the municipal drinking water system and any sort of possible contamination,” explained Gibson.  “In 2005 detergent from a car wash was pumped into the municipal drinking system in Stratford Ontario…the cost to the municipality was in excess of $100,000.”

The inspection has resulted in 87 back flow prevention devices being installed in municipal buildings.   The total cost of these new installations to the town is tagged at $27,965.00.

The program, says Gibson, should be extended to include commercial and industrial properties throughout the municipality to ensure that existing facilities have the proper devices installed to protect the water supply from cross contamination.

Residential properties would not be subject to this type of inspection.

There are a number of back flow preventers within residential property, says Gibson.

“Our water meters themselves are backflow preventers,” he continued.

The town’s GIS records indicate that there are 342 commercial properties in the municipality. According to a report by Stephen Brown, the town’s chief building official, a survey of the plumbing systems in these buildings is required.

Brown indicates that new buildings are required under the Ontario Building Code to have back flow prevention devices initially installed. However, he notes, a bylaw is required to ensure the maintenance of the devices.

The proposed by-law before council, says Gibson, follows CSA standards and allows for protection that “more closely suits the risk each business poses to the water supply rather than a one-size-fits-all approach that tends to result in over kill and additional costs to property owners in many cases.”

This approach will require that each application for a business license and each building permit application be reviewed to determine whether or not additional protection is required due to a change in the use of that building.

Brown recommends that Gibson, as a contract inspector, conduct the cross-connection survey to: “Ensure that properties are brought into compliance with the CCC By-law and maintain the CCC program.”

Councillor Davies says “this is a real important program” as having clean drinking water is not always possible in other countries.

“We are very, very lucky to have a program that we can afford,” said Davies.

Brown notes that a draft web page on the town’s internet site has been set up to answer frequently asked questions regarding cross-connection control and to explain the purpose of the program.

Additionally, an e-mail address for submitting requests for information is being proposed as is a list of contractors certified to install and test backflow prevention devices.

“I think this is an excellent program, said councilor Robert Pillon. “I am glad to see we are dealing with it.”

Council agreed to hold a public meeting in respect to initiating the CCC program bylaw.


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