Wellington Advertiser: Water nymph

Save Our Water group shares recommendations to protect local water supply with Centre Wellington council and public

Save Our Water group shares recommendations to protect local water supply with Centre Wellington council and public

By Kelsey Dunbar

Enterprise News Express Staff

Through research and consultations with water experts, the local Save Our Water (SOW) community group has highlighted concerns related to Nestlé Waters’ water-taking permit in a report to Centre Wellington council in hopes of helping local government reach an informed and accountable decision. This report is now available to the public.

“It has been a steep learning curve, but we felt that if we didn’t have the background with the sciences, then what was the point?” one of the Save Our Water spokespeople, Libby Carlaw, said in an interview with the Enterprise News Express. “We were very careful to make sure we had the science to back up our facts.”

The group of concerned residents of Centre Wellington was created in April of this year when word began to travel about the possible sale of Middlebrook to Nestlé.

The group has grown from approximately 60 people to having over 14,000 Facebook friends and more than 200 on an email newsletter list.

The group consulted with hydrologists as well as town and county water departments to compile information and share their recommended actions for the township and public to consider before Nestlé Waters’ permit-to-take-water is granted.

WATER SECURITY

SOW referred to several studies and reports that stress  management and protection of ground water is needed to secure the current and future water supply to the township.

The Township of Centre Wellington has been identified as one of Ontario’s places to grow with its population estimated to increase 40 per cent from over 27,000 to more than 41,000 by the year 2031. With that in mind, SOW says careful water supply planning is critical in meeting the increased water demands.

SOW members say they are concerned water extraction from Middlebrook by Nestlé may be in conflict with the township’s water supply long-term plan. The well’s recharge area lies within the township’s designated zone in the official plan for future water supply for Elora and for a future Elora well.

According to a 2009 water quantity stress assessment of the Grand River Watershed, if future municipal water demands increase to between eight and 10 per cent of the total watershed budget, the township’s water supply availability will be at risk and may not be able to supply the township’s growing population. That is without Nestlé extracting over a million liters of water per day.

That same study identifies Centre Wellington as a potentially stressed area for water supply due to two factors: Drought and future scenarios like population growth, and therefore is an area requiring a water quantity risk assessment.

The 2009 Grand River Conservation Authority (GRCA) integrated water supply budget report, created by Aqua Resource and initiated by the GRCA, predicts the watershed may not be retaining water at its normal rate and ultimately may not be able to support the local water demand as well as Nestlé Waters’ water-taking permit.

TECHNICAL/ENVIRONMENTAL VIABILITY

In 2008 the Middlebrook site was rejected as a location for a municipal well due to negative impacts reported by federal and provincial environmental assessments.

In July of this year, Dr. Hugh Whiteley, a third-party independent hydrologist from the University of Guelph School of Engineering, reported that more detailed data on the characteristics of the flow system now exist, and this data was not taken into account in the broader scale model for the proposed Nestlé project.

The Clean Water Act requires the permit-to-take-water process take account of these now-existing models, to represent the effects on all parts of the flow system of any new pumping that is proposed.

The GRCA integrated water budget report agrees with Whiteley, stating that further calibration would be beneficial to better understand regional groundwater systems, which currently are not understood completely.

If the ministry responsible for the water-taking permit does not understand the flow system, it could be left to assumption whether pumping would affect the well’s surroundings.

DROUGHT SCENARIOS

SOW members state a permit-to-take-water should include mandatory restrictions to reduce pumping during times of drought to ensure the levels of water in the well will return to a healthy depth.

Levels of drought are identified by the GRCA by a low-level water response as levels 1, 2 or 3. At drought levels 1 and 2, permit holders are asked to cut back their pumping by 10 per cent, however, this is left up to the permit holders.

A mandatory requirement to cut back during drought was a condition of Nestlé’s permit-to-take-water in Hillsburgh. Nestlé attempted to remove this condition, but as Wellington Water Watchers and the Council of Canadians through the Environmental Review Tribunal challenged the company, the condition remained.

The Ontario Low Water Response Planning document lists the Grand River as one of the province’s 36 watersheds that is most vulnerable to drought.

RISK OF CONTAMINATION

Middlebrook well is considered a high-risk zone for contamination because of the thin natural protective layers of clay, silt, sand and gravel over the limestone bedrock. Another risk of contamination is the high levels of nutrients in the soil from livestock, which could travel through the thin protective layer and into the watershed.

Manure in the watershed could contaminate the water with E. coli bacteria, which could cause illness or death.

Ian McRae recalled the farming practices upslope from the well while growing up on the Middlebrook well property in his report alongside the SOW report to council.

He states in his report that there is potential risk of contamination due to a chicken processing plant and farming activities occurring on and adjacent to the site. This risk is documented by the current contamination of a nearby well.

The Middlebrook well is slightly deeper then the GRCA contaminated well at 360 feet deep however, versus the contaminated 310 feet deep well.

A Nestlé representative stated that the company is not planning to treat the water taken from Middlebrook so it would qualify as a spring water brand, and SOW members say they’re concerned about untreated water consumption.

WATER MONTH

As part of a focus on educating the community about the importance of local water, SOW wants to create discussion and celebration of water and they are promoting this with water-influenced art hanging in local shops and art exhibits to raise awareness and encourage others to reflect about water.

Exhibits of art from more than 25 local artists are located at the Café Creepier and Ashanti Elora as well as other various local locations.

“It will impact people visually and generate conversation and discussion,” SOW water month organizer, Peter Skoggard, said.

More information about water month is on SOW website www.saveourwater.ca as well as their social media feeds.

SOW members said they want to know that when all is said and done, they have done all they can do to inform the public as well as the township to make an informed decision on the matter.

“We have a responsibility to protect this resource and if we don’t do it for people who are living here or have accountability here, how can we trust a multi-national corporation of any kind to do that for us? It is not in our best interest and it is a conflict of interest,” Carlaw said.

“There has to be separation from corporate interest and the interest of our community, people in our province and our country.”

Through research and consultations with water experts, the local Save Our Water (SOW) community group has highlighted concerns related to Nestlé Waters’ water-taking permit in a report to Centre Wellington council in hopes of helping local government reach an informed and accountable decision. This report is now available to the public.

 

Nestle looking to buy and pump water from the shuttered Middlebrook Water Co. site

Nestle looking to buy and pump water from the shuttered Middlebrook Water Co. site
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