Report from the Committee of the Whole May 22, 2018 Recommendation:
WHEREAS the population of the Township of Centre Wellington is mandated to grow to approximately 45,000 by 2041;
AND WHEREAS the Township is dependent upon accessible and environmentally secure groundwater for its municipal water supply;
AND WHEREAS the Township is currently studying its long term water supply options through both the Scoped Tier 3 Water Budget and the Long-Term Water Supply Master Plan;
AND WHEREAS the preliminary findings from these studies have identified the need for additional sources of groundwater to service its projected growth to 2041 and beyond;
AND WHEREAS the Council of the Township of Centre Wellington has, by resolution, declared water resources within the Township to be a “Public Trust.”
NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT
- The Township of Centre Wellington is not a willing host community to any new commercial water bottling operation or the taking of water for that purpose under any circumstances;
- The Township of Centre Wellington opposes the issuance of a new Permit to Take Water pursuant to the Ontario Water Resources Act and associated Regulations to any individual person or corporation to enable the extraction of water from any source located within its boundaries for the purpose of a commercial water bottling operation;
- The Township Clerk is hereby directed to distribute this resolution to the Leaders of the four major political parties in Ontario and to their individual candidates running in the Provincial election within Centre Wellington prior to June 7, 2018.
Talk at the May 9 Community Information Evening
For the next few minutes I will share with you information you may or may not know about a serious problem in our own backyard. This is the local story occurring underneath the radar that the public needs to know.
I’ll begin with what you likely know. Our township is facing several water challenges. Besides Nestlé’s purchase of the Middlebrook well, there is the Township’s shocking new population target announced in May 2016. The province and the county determined that we are to double the number of residents in Fergus and Elora by 2041. Very few communities in Ontario face this accelerated growth rate.
Two years ago, concerned residents hired their own hydrogeologist to undertake a through investigation of Nestlé’s impact on the township’s water system. The residents chose Garry Hunter, a civil engineer, who was instrumental in stopping the Mega Quarry near Shelburne.
Garry’s initial focus was Nestlé’s request for a permit to take 1.6 million litres per day, a rate approximately equal to the combined daily rate of three of Centre Wellington’s best municipal wells. After further research, he realized he should focus – not on the Middlebrook well – but on our township’s water infrastructure.
His first report issued in May 2016 predicted that several of our 8 municipal wells are incapable of pumping to their permitted amount; that these wells will not support our forecasted growth, meaning we need additional new wells; that the reliance of one in eight residents on private wells within the urban boundary restricts how much the township can draw down the water level when operating its wells; and that Nestlé’s water-taking at Middlebrook will directly compete with Centre Wellington’s expansion of its municipal water system.
Our County Councillor Shawn Watters will confirm that finding suitable sites for new municipal wells is a huge undertaking for this community. It can take upwards of eight years to get a single new well online and cost up to $4 million before the water is finally flowing. Centre Wellington has a history of difficulties in finding sites for our municipal wells.
In the late 1990s, Shawn was a township councillor on the committee charged with finding a new source of water for Centre Wellington. Eventually the well was constructed behind the racetrack on the Cottontail Trail. Shawn, for those who had been following the problem, has stated all along that water is an underlying issue in our community, yet few have been listening, until now!
So here’s the story most of you haven’t heard. Where does the water come from for our wells? Under our community the water flows north to south through cracks and fissures in the deep bedrock, and this direction determines where best to locate a new municipal well.
Municipal wells, situated upstream of their southern counterparts, interfere with the southern wells’ ability to draw water.
Extending our well system further south from Fergus is not feasible due to the City of Guelph’s well capture zones, which extend now north to Swan Creek at the south end of Fergus. We will be competing with Guelph for water if we go south. In fact the town tried a test well south of Fergus near Highway 6 and Second Line and found that there wasn’t enough capacity there for a Township well.
Logically, the best locations for future municipal wells are to the east of Fergus and west of Elora.
However, east of Fergus in some locations the ground is too unstable for a high production well, and there is a history of water quality issues associated with deeper wells and increased pumping due to the bedrock conditions near Fergus.
The best location for future Township water and very good water is west of Elora, but here Nestle blocks our expansion. High capacity wells require a minimum 2 km. separation to prevent well interference. So, with Nestlé at the Middlebrook well 2 km down the road, this wipes out from the equation the whole area west of Elora as a possible source for new municipal water.
So here’s another fact – we the taxpayers and municipal water users will have to pay more when the town has to go further afield for good water sources, or has to pay to treat poorer quality water to bring it up to standard.
Our township’s water manager Colin Baker and the township’s hydrogeologist Ray Blackport support this assessment of the situation. They agree the ‘easy’ water has already been found, and by easy water they mean water close to the municipality and easy to obtain without constraints. Finding new sources of groundwater now becomes more difficult.
Garry’s report revealed another inconvenient truth, that our current infrastructure for drinking water with or without growth, or Nestlé, already faces challenges.
Some of our wells have issues with quality, and others with capacity. Elora’s three wells interfere with each other, particularly the well by Jeffersons and the well on the Cottontail Trail, despite these wells being more than 2 km apart. Mutual interference and interference with private wells mean that these two wells cannot pump continuously at a high rate at the same time.
Some of our wells are now registering chloride from road salt, indicating that surface water is beginning to leach into our deep aquifer in those locations.
Fergus’s five wells have their challenges. The one near the high school can only pump at 50%; otherwise sediment gets in. The well at the north end of Gartshore, shows deterioration of water quality with increased pumping due to elevated sulphur. So that well is used only as much as it’s needed.
The oldest Fergus well, beside Groves hospital, has some trichloroethylene contamination from old industry, requiring air stripping remediation of this water before it’s used as drinking water.
So, the township provides us with excellent water, but this is a tricky and costly system to maintain. It’s not an easy system.
The Hunter report must be a signal to the province, to the county and to the municipality that our situation here is serious – that under any scenario Nestlé’s water taking is a huge risk for our municipal water system and our wallets.
Another inconvenient truth we have discovered is the negative financial impact of Nestlé’s presence in our community. Our County and Township are focused on increasing their access to tax money, and while Nestlé may be good for the County’s pocket, it is not good for ours.
Nestlé currently pays approximately $38,000 in property taxes for the Middlebrook property. This will be dramatically reduced when they remove the building and put in a small well house. Then they will be paying less in taxes than many of us present here tonight, while extracting enough water every day that could service 2,700 homes. By comparison, these homes would generate over $2 million in property taxes for the Township alone.
We the taxpayers have to understand that if we have to pipe water here from further from town this will be an enormous cost. This work will be funded out of our water bills, so very clearly the residents are going to be paying so that Nestlé can take and export our water.
The first Hunter report provided the facts needed to bolster the efforts of Save Our Water and Wellington Water Watchers, who together:
- contributed to the Province’s decision to deny Nestlé a pump test permit
- persuaded the Province to authorize a scoped Tier 3 study
- encouraged the township to submit a bid for the Middlebrook well
- emboldened the province to slap a 2 year moratorium on the bottled water industry, and,
- instigated the township’s moving forward with its Water Supply Master Plan.
So the province and the township are listening.
Garry has continued with this project for two years and now has a substantial new report ready to go. The advance results are in.
All of this has been an eye-opener for a lot of people, our council and mayor included. Whereas the deterioration and repair of our roads and bridges is visible to all, what happens underground is another story. We take our water system for granted. We turn on our taps and expect water to come out. We don’t appreciate what is involved in ensuring this happens.
It is important that we residents understand these challenges with our water system, and understand that Centre Wellington’s ability to service its growth will be put in serious jeopardy by Nestlé’s commercial extraction at the Middlebrook well. When we all know and understand where our drinking water comes from and how it gets to our taps, then we understand why we have to protect our precious sources of water.
The Province has to understand that they can’t have it both ways. The Province cannot target this community for 100% growth in the next 23 years, while also permitting a municipal-scale extraction by a private industry, putting our drinking water system at risk.
It can make no sense to our council or to the province or to anyone to permit competition between a township mandated to grow and an exploitative commercial water-taker at the edge of town.
Nestle and Centre Wellington
We know that democracy is not a spectator sport!
We are not up against just any business. This is Nestle! The challenge for us is who controls the ground water we depend upon…the people of Ontario or a foreign corporation?
In the end, it is our community, our wells, farms, industry, businesses and future growth that will be hurt. If Nestle gets a permit to pump water here, we could experience the water nightmare that other parts of the world are in now!
Let’s talk Nestle.
Vittel France is running out of water and blaming Nestles’ 28 years of water taking. We do not want that to happen here!
Erin is having trouble finding a new well! Nestle is there to “help”…This could be us too!
Nestle is one of the biggest bottlers of water with over 100 plants in 34 countries and always hunting for more! By their own admission, they waste at least 30 per cent of that water they take in the bottling process itself.
They have been pumping with an expired permit in California for 30 years at about 1 billion gallons a year. California is in a multiyear drought. Yet a Nestle executive said,” If I could increase it, I would!”
Nestle’s deep well in Pakistan caused the water level
to drop leaving the local village with dirty,
dangerous water sickening the villagers. When this came to light, Nestle kept right on pumping.
This is NOT the kind of business we want in our
Community, one that has such a bad reputation, is a threat to our local water system, negatively impacts aquatic ecosystems, and contributes to the plastic pollution that is choking our planet.
Here is the predatory, strong-arm company we are dealing with:
When Osceloa Township in Michigan voted NO to Nestle’s plan to triple their water taking because it would stress the township’s water system, Nestle sued the township. While they were suing those people, Nestle’s message was, “We want to be part of the community, we want to have conversations.” Lawyer up and See you in court! Some conversation!
This is the way they treat a host community! This could be us! They choose small rural communities but they picked the wrong one here!
Thank you for your support thus far. But we are not done yet!
Nestle executives here claim to be an open book, but when our technical team asked for a report on the Middlebrook well, they did not share it. They also chose to firm up their offer when the township bid on the property.
Other communities have beaten back Nestle and we can too! We will not be bullied, bankrupted or manipulated. We need policies that lock out a company that would privatize the water a community needs!
We are NOT a willing host community to Nestle! We are going to ask our Council to put that in a resolution for the province. Come to the May 28 Council meeting to support a resolution.
Let’s talk Provincial Politics.
To his credit, Ted Arnott, who was our opposition Environmental Critic, told the Legislature that Ontario must do more to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and confront climate change. Let us support him with that view but tell him he needs to go further. Let him know that plastic waste like Nestle water bottles are part of an ecological time bomb that scientists warn us is “as dangerous as climate change”.
Please tell Ted Arnott to choose his priorities: profits for a foreign corporation or the needs of his community.
Centre Wellington relies solely on ground water. We cannot afford to have it shipped away daily never to return! The province cannot ask us to double in size and then give a permit to take away the water!
It is time for Ted to walk the talk and make some tough decisions. We know that if a decision had been made 3 years ago, the science would have been totally wrong!
The decisions we ask for today will determine the future of this community, the future generations and all of Ontario. Precedents are set here. The rest of the province will be vulnerable to water taking unless we draw the line here!
Tell Ted Arnott, and John Hurst of the Liberals, and Diane Ballantyne of the NDP and Dave Rodgers of the Green Party that this is not about any business. This is about Nestle. This company puts our community at serious risk! We need to see better provincial legislation that protects water.
Let’s talk the municipality!
Our councillors voted unanimously to support water as a public trust. Let us support them in that position and hold them to that.
We citizens are asked to conserve water. Conserving water does not mean giving 1.6 million litres of water a day to Nestle!
Our water rates may skyrocket if we cannot find easily accessible, good quality water. Economic development does not happen without water! Quality of life suffers terribly without good water!
If the township does not consent to this water taking it carries huge weight with the province.
We need to know where each candidate both provincially and municipally stands on this issue. Let them all know about our sincere concerns about available, accessible water. Let them know we do not support privatization of water! Ask questions, get answers and vote accordingly for the provincial candidate and municipal ones in the fall election.
We must be clear on this. No public private partnership deals! No deals or compromise at all!
Tell our mayor, our councillors and all candidates running for both the provincial and then the municipal elections to stop this threat! Ask if they are going to accept this risk or stand up and oppose it!
The bottom line is who controls our water. It is time to act! Have a Ted talk with Mr. Arnott, question John Hurst, Diane Ballantyne, and Dave Rodgers. Find out their party platforms if they have one.
Let them know what a vital issue this is here. Ask them where their party stands on privatization of water. Ask every candidate their party’s position and their personal view on the rules for permits to take water. Ask our mayor and council and future municipal candidates their positions too. They could start with the Not a Willing Host resolution to get that message to the province.
We are all in this together. Figure out what you can do to stop this Nestle take over. We need your help and your voices! It’s on!
Dante: “the hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in times of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality.” We do not have the luxury of neutrality. Neither do our politicians!
The next few months are crucial! All of us need to keep up the pressure. Send a letter, an email, make a phone call and make an appointment with a candidate for a talk tomorrow! Let’s help our Council get the message to the province!
This is a DO IT NOW time for our community!
The Ontario government’s proposal to impose a two-year moratorium on new or expanded water takings from groundwater by bottling companies is good news for Ontario, and for Centre Wellington. If passed, the moratorium will provide much needed time for research and consultation.
The moratorium means there is no possibility of a pump test at the Middlebrook well until January 2019.
The moratorium is what we asked for, and it’s a reprieve, but this story isn’t over.
In the Ministry’s announcement: “This would allow time for the Ministry to undertake a comprehensive look at our current understanding of Ontario’s groundwater resources and the rules that govern water bottling facilities that use groundwater. This will help enhance water security in Ontario, by ensuring the wise use and management of groundwater in the face of climate change and population growth.” Read more
The Middlebrook site is located across the road from the Elora Gorge Park, a Grand River campground and attraction known for its limestone cliffs and river views. Communities potentially affected by this water taking include Elora, Salem, and Fergus.
Formed in April 2015, Save Our Water is a growing movement of area residents committed to the protection and preservation of the Grand River watershed. We are working closely with Wellington Water Watchers to safeguard the groundwater that our communities, our wetlands, and our river ecosystems rely on.
As the group’s Twitter hashtag ‘What’s the rush?” alludes to, provincially mandated research on the Township’s water supplies, the Water Source Master Plan and a Tier Three Assessment of groundwater resources for water-stressed communities like Centre Wellington, have not yet been undertaken. Save Our Water believes that this crucial research should be completed before the Ministry considers granting more water-taking permit for the purposes of commercial bottling in the Grand River Watershed. This will ensure that groundwater resources remain sustainable for future residents and that the right of the public to clean, sustainable water supplies come before those of private corporations. Read more
Summary of Recommendations and Issues in the Briefing Document, “Issues Related to the Middlebrook Well Permit To Take Water“
by: Athol Gow
Recommended Actions in the Document:
- The Ministry of the Environment should hold off on a decision on the new Permit To Take Water (PTTW) application for the Middlebrook well until both a Tier 3 Water Quantity Risk Assessment (WQRA) and a municipal Water Supply Management Plan for the Township of Centre Wellington have been completed.
- The water‐taking permit applicant (Nestlé) should be required to conduct a carefully documented well‐pumping test that should include private wells and continuous recording of water level data at all wells. The water level data collection should start two weeks in advance of the pump test and continue after it is over to better gauge the impact on local wells of removing water from the Middlebrook site.
- A thorough environmental study should be conducted to demonstrate that water‐taking from the Middlebrook well will not have an impact on plants, wildlife or nearby aquatic ecosystems.
- A requirement that, if a PTTW for the Middlebrook well is granted to the applicant, a provision be added that places restrictions on water taking during droughts.
- A full assessment of the Middlebrook site for potential well and aquifer contamination issues