We live with Walkerton yet; the sledge hammer
that kills the flea.
Ontario, you will find thousands of little operations -- lakeside
cabins, children's camps, churches, restaurants, motels, seasonal
tourist spots; you know the type, perhaps you are the type -- that
rely on well water, by necessity.
government has enacted the Safe Drinking Water Act, which arrives
with an imposing set of regulations; the hammer, as it were, about
Briefly, if you
draw water and serve it to customers or guests to drink, you must
install a "treatment system," regardless of how pure the well water
might be. This may involve chlorination or filtration or an
which system is appropriate and to ensure all the Ts are crossed, a
professional engineer must be hired to oversee the plan. Once
complete, a staff member must be trained to run the system, which
requires regular maintenance.
Little mom-and-pop operations say they're looking at bills in the
$20,000 to $30,000 range.
Lake Camp has been operating outside Perth for close to 80 years,
each summer providing two-week sessions for about 380 disadvantaged
children aged nine to 14. It is laudable work, widely supported with
director Brian Gerrard said the regulations arrived in the mail one
day. His first reaction?
"You have to be
a lawyer to understand what they're telling you to do. There must be
35,000 loopholes to figure out."
has two sealed wells, installed six or seven years ago. The water
has always tested clean, said Mr. Gerrard.
estimates it will cost at least $25,000 to meet ministry
regulations, plus ongoing costs to run the systems. While he ping-pongs
queries between the engineer, the plumber and the health inspector,
the camp awaits word on a government grant to cover costs.
said the water used to be regularly tested -- as per government
orders -- and wonders why a disinfection system is suddenly
bottom line is we want to protect our kids, but are you telling me
that what you've had us doing for the last 80 years hasn't been
protecting our kids?"
In a word, yes.
The Ministry of
Environment says the changes were brought about by recommendations
from the O'Connor inquiry into the Walkerton tragedy, the
tainted-water disaster that killed seven people in 2000 and sickened
Ontario has a
lot of wells -- 15,000 new ones every year and a total of three
million residents relying on them.
about 150 kilometres west of Ottawa, village life nearly came to a
standstill one night last week as residents poured into a meeting
organized by those opposing the regulations.
is the part-owner of Krazy Paul's Oasis Restaurant in the village,
just beyond the reach of the communal water system. The 60-seat
eatery draws its water from a well.
He's opposed to
treating his water with a chlorination system. "We have perfectly
good water now and they want us to put a poison additive into it."
is being asked to hire an engineering firm and have their water
tested for myriad compounds (from arsenic to methane), an initial
series of tests that will cost about $2,100. The actual system will
cost much more.
Mr. Borck is
not simply angry about the new regulations. He's vowing not to
argues that well and surface water is regularly contaminated and
needs stricter attention. In 2003, in its eastern region, it had
about 75 "adverse incidents" reported from routine testing.
James Mahoney told the crowd in Killaloe that thousands of samples
of water contaminated with E. Coli and bacteria are found in rural
municipalities every year.
came to Canada from Switzerland almost 10 years ago to get into the
tourist business. He now operates Bonnechere Lodge, on the shore of
Golden Lake, not far from Eganville.
He has 12
rental cottages, 20 trailer sites and a bed and breakfast. He has
two drilled wells on his property and regularly tests the water. He,
too, is vowing not to comply with his 2006 deadline. "We have to
spend good money to treat clean water," said Mr. Imhof. "Walkerton
had absolutely nothing to do with a well."
It is difficult
to know how many operations in Eastern Ontario are affected by the
tougher regulations, but the number is surely in the hundreds.
Tourism, after all, is the third-largest economic generator in
Renfrew County, worth at least $100 million annually.
Valley Tourist Association, for instance, estimates there are 700
tourist operators in its area, of which 188 belong to the
association. The group believes roughly half its members are
affected by the new rules.
It is hard to
argue with the proposition that we need rules and regulations to
ensure a safe drinking water supply in the countryside, particularly
when water is served to visitors.
this. Walkerton had a chlorination system. Walkerton had full-time
staff operating its treatment plant. Walkerton had regular oversight
from provincial authorities. And the contamination happened anyway,
due to the worst form of bungling: the kind created, not by broken
machines, but faulty humans. If we kill, or cripple, or totally
disengage rural operators in a rush to regulate them, what have we
Egan at 726-5896 or by e-mail,