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This original article by Mike Robinson appeared in the Wellington Advertiser here
ELORA – Centre Wellington council has officially taken a stand, opposing water bottling operations that could adversely impact municipal water supplies.
At the same time, council endorsed Ontario’s proposed two-year moratorium on new and expanded water bottling operations.
Council’s resolution on Oct. 31 came short of stating the township is opposed to Nestlé Waters, the water bottling company that purchased the Middlebrook well site earlier this year (after making a conditional offer on the property about 18 months ago).
Council’s discussion was held in front of a packed gallery, including many who participated in a Save Our Water rally prior to the meeting.
Mayor Kelly Linton stated the discussion was a follow-up to the Sept. 26 presentation from Save Our Water, whose members requested council pass a resolution stating the municipality is opposed to Nestlé’s water taking proposal.
At that time, councillor Kirk McElwain proposed the township “send letters to Premier Wynne and Minister Glen Murray expressing our collective concern that the issuance of a permit to Nestle to take water from the Middlebrook well site is not in the best interest of the Township of Centre Wellington and the watershed by its surrounding municipalities.”
The recommendation was deferred until the Oct. 31 meeting.
Staff were asked to review the status of the City of Guelph resolution regarding Nestlé’s permit renewal in Aberfoyle, and for municipal representatives to meet with Murray, Minister of the Environment and Climate Change.
“Both those things have happened,” Mayor Kelly Linton said on Monday night.
And, he added, since the Sept. 26 meeting the province initiated a moratorium on new or expanded commercial water bottling operations – which would include the Middlebrook well.
That means there will be no testing or water taking prior to January 2019 at the earliest.
“It has significantly changed things,” Linton said.
In a report, CAO Andy Goldie stated he has spoken to Guelph CAO Derrick Thompson regarding the city’s concern about the future sustainability of water-taking from the watershed shared by the city.
Delegations regarding Nestlé’s permit to take water at its Aberfoyle plant will be accepted at the city’s Nov. 7 committee of the whole meeting.
City staff are expected to bring forward two reports at that meeting regarding a process to provide for local public comments to the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC).
That includes ensuring comments made at the Nov. 7 meeting are provided to the ministry, as well as a report providing an overview of the Nestlé application for a permit and past comments by the city on water taking and potential concerns with respect to water quantity and future water supply needs for the city.
Goldie noted the city is also working to arrange a meeting between Mayor Cam Guthrie and Minister Murray prior to the Nov. 7 meeting.
Centre Wellington council and staff representatives met with Murray and MPP Ted Arnott on Oct. 25.
Arnott assisted the township in arranging the meeting, as well as a previous meeting in September 2015, and has been assisting the township dialogue with the province regarding water sustainability to meet growth requirements.
Goldie said Linton advised Murray regarding the following:
– Centre Wellington’s ongoing concern with the ability of the township to protect its long-term water supply to meet the provincial growth plan population projections for Centre Wellington (more than 51,000 residents by 2041);
– the municipality’s approach about what has been done to try to safeguard water in Centre Wellington, including the rationale behind the substantial, unconditional offer to purchase the Middlebrook Road property, and Nestlé’s subsequent firming of its offer;
– Centre Wellington’s commitment to continue to work with MOECC staff;
– the municipality’s appreciation to the ministry for funding to the Grand River Conservation Authority (GRCA) to complete the “Centre Wellington Scoped Tier 3 Water Budget and Risk Assessment” (which will provide the water modeling tool for the township’s Long Term Water Supply Master Plan);
– Centre Wellington wants to ensure all water taking permits are based on sound analysis of scientific data;
– the township seeks further assurances the province will be considering the long-term impacts of any water-taking on the local water supply prior to approving any commercial water taking permits;
– the township is supportive of the recent decision to establish a two-year moratorium on the issuance of new or increasing permits for water bottling; and
– the township requests information about the process and advice on how Centre Wellington could be more effective in influencing decisions related to commercial water taking.
Goldie stated Murray and MOECC staff advised that the new Provincial Climate Change Policy provides some guidance in regards to the protection of water related to agricultural lands, forest protection and lakes.
Murray also indicated that local water security is paramount and the MOECC has begun work to improve its understanding of ground water in Ontario.
He encouraged the township to continue to work with his staff and the GRCA to expand on water budgets produced as part of the source water protection program.
Goldie said the MOECC will also “take a closer look at how demands for water are expected to change as Ontario’s communities grow and how our supplies can meet this demand as climate changes.”
Finally, Murray also noted the province is looking to move away from plastics as part of its Zero Waste Bill and is currently working with corporations on the initiative.
Goldie said Murray complimented the township on its approach and actions to date, and encouraged local officials to continue with actions that are “fair, moderate, consistent and thoughtful.”
Goldie considers the province’s two-year moratorium on water taking permits a significant step forward that allows the township and the community further time to engage with the province on possible new/increased regulations for water taking.
Based on this recent provincial news, and on discussions with the township’s lawyer, Goldie suggested the township follow up in writing with Premier Kathleen Wynne, Murray, and MPP Ted Arnott, stating:
– the township supports the province’s decision to establish a moratorium … thereby prohibiting any new or increased use of groundwater in Ontario for bottled water, in order to allow the [MOECC] to undertake a comprehensive review of the rules that govern water bottling facilities in Ontario; and
– it is the position of the township that it opposes the use of groundwater in the township for water bottling that would adversely impact the sustainability of the municipal drinking water supply for its present and future needs.
Linton suggested the provincial moratorium was, in part, a result of what has happened in Centre Wellington.
Regarding McElwain’s Sept. 26 resolution, Linton said there have been a number of changes – including the provincial moratorium.
He suggested this might be the opportunity to develop a more focused resolution “to get the outcome we want – which is to look after the long-term sustainability of water in Centre Wellington.”
McElwain congratulated the efforts of Save Our Water and Wellington Water Watchers in the protection of local resources in Centre Wellington.
McElwain pointed out, “This is only the first step. There are still too many questions about our water requirements to allow the use of our groundwater for a totally consumptive use.”
He also contended that based on local rates of growth, “Centre Wellington could be a city of 100,000-plus by the turn of the century.”
McElwain added scientists continue to predict more frequent and severe droughts because of climate change.
“We cannot afford to gamble with the lives of our residents,” he said.
Based on council’s discussion and Goldie’s report, McElwain withdrew his original motion and replaced it with a modified motion.
His new resolution mirrored the suggestions from Goldie (writing to Wynne, Murray and Arnott to confirm the township’s support for the province’s moratorium, and stating the municipality’s opposition to water bottling that adversely impacts the municipal drinking water supply).
Council’s passage of the resolution was met with cheers of approval from those in the gallery.
Des résidents d’Elora dans la région de Guelph s’opposent à ce que Nestlé achète une usine locale et obtienne un permis pour exploiter un puits. Nestlé souhaite l’utiliser pour alimenter son usine d’embouteillage à une trentaine de kilomètres d’Elora.
Dans cette petite ville idyllique au nord-ouest de Toronto, de nombreux résidents ont leur propre puits. Une source d’eau précieuse, mais limitée, explique Lindsay Boger, qui a déjà vu son puits à sec.
Les résidents craignent l’impact de l’exploitation de Nestlé sur la qualité et la quantité d’eau de la nappe phréatique. Selon eux, les autorités n’ont pas toutes les données en main pour pourvoir évaluer l’impact que pourrait avoir un tel projet.
Pour le moment, Nestlé a déposé une offre conditionnelle sur le puits. La compagnie réalise des tests pour mieux évaluer le potentiel de la source. Elle ajoute que la question de la durabilité la préoccupe tout autant que les résidents.
Nestlé attend la permission du gouvernement provincial pour pouvoir aller de l’avant avec des tests de pompage sur une période de 30 jours, afin d’avoir une meilleure idée de la durabilité du puits. La compagnie espère obtenir le permis pour commencer les essais dans les prochains mois.
Avec un reportage de Sara-Christine Gemson