Local watersheds subject to ‘significant threat’ scenario

By Karen Fallon

Stan Taylor, director of Source Water Protection and Tom Fuerth, chair of the Essex Region Source Protection Committee spoke about the updated technical studies for the local Source Water Protection program.

The program set forth by the province’s Clean Water Act, says Taylor, deals with the water intake at municipal water treatment systems and not the actual water treatment facility.

The latter of which do an excellent job, says Taylor in respect to monitoring and placing safeguards to ensure safe drinking water.

While providing an up-date on the on-going program, designed to protect water in the local watersheds and near shore waters of the Great Lakes, Taylor noted that the program looks at “raw water in its natural environment before entering the municipal system.”

So far the program has taken three assessment steps,  which deals with “significant threat” scenarios should they happen in the area.

Taylor noted that a simulated fuel tanker spill on the Arner Townline could result in contamination reaching the water intake in well under 20-hours at a concentration over the drinking water standards.

Councillor Carolyn Davies inquired about “shipping issues” that could result from hazardous contaminants being taken along the Detroit River.

The Clean Water Act described by the province is land based, noted Taylor and doesn’t take into account activities that take place on Great Lake waters, or transportation corridors that include rail or highways.

However, consideration is being given around action plans in the event of such a spill, said Taylor.

“But there is nothing through this act in terms of regulatory provisions to address transportation corridors,” he added.

“Is there any consideration in relationship to our neighbours across the river,” asked Davies, who spoke of a previous occurrence that resulted in oil in Detroit’s Rouge River and the Canadian Ministry of the Environment’s involvement at that time.

Taylor says although this type of question has raised its head a number of time regarding cross border regions, consideration has to be given to the international boundary.

“There is no provision currently under the Clean Water Act for such studies to be undertaken,” said Taylor.

Noting the often closure of local beaches throughout the summer months, councillor Diane Pouget asked if the program looks at the cause of E-coli bacteria which forces such closures.

A few years ago there were indications of elevated E-coli levels at the Amherstburg intake which were “easily handled” by the town’s water treatment plant, says Taylor.

Studies from the past four or five years have shown that this has dropped off very substantially, it is now among the lowest in the region,” said Taylor.

However, the study doesn’t “allow” for beaches to be taken into account in respect to the program. However, Taylor says he believes that the beach issue is very important.

Councillor Robert Pillon says that keeping the local beaches open is a “very important issue.”

A sentiment echoed by councillor John Sutton who noted that at a former meeting with an ERCA representative it was noted that the organization would be willing to invest funding to investigate the source and cause of beach pollution throughout the area.

“It is a county-wide issue and it is something that involves the health and safety of all our resident, it is important that we continue to invest in that,” said Sutton.

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