H2Oh Really?

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Today is recognized by the United Nations as World Water Day.

The same United Nations that the Northern Ontario community of Grassy Narrows has been in the news for approaching with a severe health crisis due to mercury pollution. Nine metric tonnes of mercury was discharged by a pulp and paper mill in the 1960’s, clean-up is projected to be $120 million.

The issue of lead in Flint Michigan’s water supply broke at the beginning of this year but given the distance away that Flint is there is some perceived safety that comes with that, affording us some complacency in the attention we give to our services.

What about what’s happening in Toronto?  Global news recently reported Toronto first started testing for lead in 2007, and when it found that 52% of the private households it tested had lead concentrations higher than the safe standards it planned to get rid of all city-owned lead water pipes by 2017.

When that proved to be too much of a challenge they started in 2014 treating water with phosphate, an anti-corrosive agent designed to form a protective coating inside water pipes to keep the lead from leaching into the water.

Get this, they won’t resume provincially regulated lead tests until October 2017

2 years ago when the Federal Government drew up detailed lists classifying Canadian communities at high-risk they refused to disclose which communities were identified even when pressed under an FOI. Three are located in Ontario.

Water you get out of your tap in Aurora is clear but it’s source and what is filtered from it may not be.

Consulting the Town of Aurora’s GC meeting report of March 24, 2015 we find 3 documents:

IES15-021 – 2014 Water Audit Report

IES15-022 – Water, Wastewater and Stormwater Budget

and

IES15-019 – Ministry of Environment Drinking Water System Inspection

If you open the last one you will read:

In September 2002, York Region had commenced supplementing the Town’s ground water supply with Lake Ontario water. Since June 2008, York Region is responsible for the operational mixing ratio of the two water supplies. Currently the annual average mixing ratio is 75% surface water supply (Lake Ontario) and 25% groundwater supply.

When I first heard of the blending of surface and ground water the ratios were reversed. With now 75% of what is being delivered coming from Lake Ontario represents a significant departure from 0% only 13 years ago.

Seeing as York region operates 6 wells why isn’t Aurora using more of it’s groundwater?

What’s driving the change, are they drying up?

In 2013 Two public information centres held to discuss the Yonge Street Aquifer Well Capacity Restoration Class Environmental Assessment

On page 6 the problem/opportunity statement reads:

The purpose of this project is to re-establish the full permitted well capacity of York Region’s water system in the Yonge Street Aquifer area while ensuring that future water demands can be met, the reliability of the water supply is maintained or enhanced, and the responsible management of groundwater in the Yonge StreetAquifer is continued.

Should this not be addressed Alternative #4 reads:

Increase Water Supply from Lake Ontario is not a viable alternative for further consideration as it does not address the problem/opportunity statement. Does not re-establish any well capacity of York Region’s water system, does not maintain or enhance the reliability of the water supply, and does not contribute to the responsible management of groundwater in the Yonge Street Aquifer.

Just how reliable is blending our water supply with a lake that had a 15-metre crap bubble no one wanted to acknowledge?

A 3/4 ratio blend is exceptionaly high considering this 2013 CTV news reported that PCBs and mercury are still found in the Great Lakes despite decades of trying to manage them.

Antonia Zerbisias’ Toronto Star article from July of 2011 raises questions abut sustainability of 4.5 Million people drawing water from Lake Ontario:

Mark Mattson, president of Lake Ontario Waterkeeper says: “All those new condos and all that new sewage going into the harbour every time it rains. It makes the water untouchable.”

With no alternative potable drinking water the only solution advanced when Lake Ontario fails is to build a pipeline to Lake Huron or James Bay or something.

Why not Lake Simcoe? the proposed site of York Region’s sewage treatment plant which strangely the Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority believes will have no impact on drinking water supply .

Mayor Dawe who is the chair of the Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority posted this facebook update a couple days ago:

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Dawe’s involvement as chair and as Mayor of Aurora serves to highlight some rather large inconsistencies in approach.

The first being the Town of Aurora’s decision to full on refeuse recomendations in the Lake Simcoe Region Subwatershed Plans Implementation Report in favour of increasing use of road salt.

The other is a preocupation with “rainscaping” on a single community centre parking lot  which will likely such a negligible effort to reduce the environmental impact to a creek that is named after the toxic sludge spewing tannery that emptied into it.

Now an unremediated brownfield  the opperation of Collis Leather has left a massively negative impact on the environment and health of our town decades after its opperation ceased.

A tannery that according to record discharged all sorts of chemicals into the creek turning the water blue and green and producing 3 eyed fish like an episode of The Simpsons:

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And if blue and green water aren’t your color scheme there are recent photos posted on an Environmental Advocacy page on facebook of orange water leeching from barels of what appears to be a large dump close to the recent clear-cut and unremediated area at the south end of town:

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“Rusty” water was a significant issue in Aurora back in the 1960’s and 70s, here’s an Auroran piece on it:

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A photo posted recently on facebook showing contaminated water spewing out of a fire hydrant:

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Yes Ontario instituted a Safe Drinking Water Act in 2002 which all the town’s water documents reference, but that’s not to say irregularites aren’t  happening.  Just recently consultants had to be hired by the Region to specifically address chlorine residual inconsistencies in the Town of Aurora water supply, storage and distribution system.

And they’re not the only irregularities.  If you are to explore What’s In The Water   you’ll see readings taken at Yonge Street north of St. Andrews College with red flags showing for alkalinity, aluminum, copper and silver in the ground water.

If it wants to resonsibly manage the groundwater of the Yonge Street Aquifer The Town of Aurora needs to seriously revisit both its water blend ratio and infrastructure commitments before it boasts how we’re somehow receiving an exceptional quality of life when we turn on our taps.

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