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More questions than answers about Sanikiluaq's water problems: E. coli detected in hamlet office, coliform bacteria found in high school
Sima Sahar Zerehi, CBC News August 24, 2016
E. coli recently detected in Sanikiluaq, Nunavut, was found in the hamlet office not in the community's water source — though it's not clear exactly where it was in the office or how it got there.
There are still many questions about the issues with tap water in the hamlet, but the territorial government says answers are coming.
Earlier this week residents in Sanikiluaq were warned about the presence of E. coli in two locations. And in July every home in the community was outfitted with a reverse osmosis filtration system because of high levels of sodium in the community's water.
"There have been no reported illness in the community associated with the water," said Wanda Joy, an environmental health specialist with the Nunavut government.
The territory has still not said why sodium levels were so high, but a spokesperson for Community and Government Services (CGS) said that an outside consultant was hired to investigate the issue and file a report.
That report is now in the hands of territorial staff for review -- apparently its findings will be made available to the public soon.
Bacteria in high school
A test also showed traces of other coliform bacteria in Paatsaali High School, but there was no E. coli at this site.
Like E. coli, coliform bacteria can be found in feces. While coliforms are not usually the cause of serious illness, their presence is used to indicate that other pathogens may be present, including disease-causing bacteria, viruses and parasites.
To contain the spread of the bacteria, the fountain at the high school has been turned off. The hamlet office has also been examined and there are no longer signs of contaminants.
Nunavut government staff test water in communities across the territory for bacteria on a weekly basis and samples are sent for lab testing, according to CGS.
The tests are done at the water source, all public buildings, the water delivery trucks and equipment.
Joy said to her knowledge there is no connection between the water filtration systems and the presence of E. coli in the community's water.
The hamlet also had a boil water advisory in the summer of 2014 after E. coli was detected.
Waiting for test results
Joy said the boil water advisory is a precautionary measure put in place while the GN investigates the problems and what may be causing them.
"More water samples have been taken and are being sent in for analysis," she said.
It's unclear when the results will be available, she said, pointing to factors such as flight schedules into the community.
E. coli refers to a large group of bacteria commonly found in lakes and streams, and all mammals including humans have the bacteria in their intestinal tracts.
"During routine sampling, they're used as our indicator organisms. When we get a hit with E. coli it indicates that there could be a problem with the system," said Joy.
She wouldn't elaborate on what kinds of problems the detection of E. coli in tap water could mean.
Most strains of E. coli are harmless, but some types can make people sick with severe stomach cramps, diarrhea and vomiting.
Why one U of Guelph groundwater researcher says accepting money from Nestlé is OK: Nestlé may see research and comment on it, but won’t have control, engineering prof Beth Parker says
Kate Bueckert, CBC News August 25, 2016
Groundwater researcher Beth Parker often relies on money from industry partners to help fund her research.
But a recent donation by Nestlé Waters to her research through the University of Guelph's G360 Centre for Applied Groundwater Research has raised some questions for the engineering professor.
"I've heard the concerns. I've been accepting money from industry partners my entire career," Parker said.
Nestlé has raised the ire of local water advocacy groups that say they need to stop pumping water and bottling it, shipping it away from southern Ontario.
"I've often been questioned as to the logic or the rationale for how that supports fundamental research, as well as even applied research, in terms of the types of questions I'm interested in," Parker said. "There's nothing wrong with the questions and I actually welcome those questions in some ways, as long as the context is understood."
Parker noted Nestlé only provided the money and has no say over her work. Instead, the money is being used as "seed" funding so she can apply to the federal and provincial governments for grants to expand her research.
"The research proposal I would write is going to be reviewed by my peers, not by Nestlé. Nestlé will see it, they'll perhaps even provide feedback or input to it, but not exclusively, and certainly not controlling it, because that's not favourable to our outcome, which is to do work that advances the state of the science," Parker said.
Nestlé Waters Canada announced Aug. 5 that the company had donated $460,000 to Parker to conduct leading-edge groundwater research in Wellington County.
Township of Puslinch Mayor Dennis Lever said in a press release the "generous donation" will support important research.
In the same release, Andreanne Simard, natural resources manager for Nestlé Waters Canada, said the company "strives to add value to the community, not only through its operations. Water sustainability is Nestle's number one priority and we are proud to support this research program that will contribute to the protection of this vital resource."
Group: End water permit in Aberfoyle
Earlier this week, the Guelph-based group Wellington Water Watchers called on the province to phase out the company's permit to take water in Aberfoyle.
The company's permit expired July 31, but the renewal application was in early enough that the Ministry of the Environment will allow Nestle to continue to operate under that permit until a new one is granted.
Wellington Water Watchers chairman Mike Nagy said the province should give the company two years to stop taking water.
"It's not just Aberfoyle – it's the well in Hillsburgh, it's the one they've just purchased in centre Wellington near Elora. Now, they have three permits in their hands which would give them over six-and-a-half million litres a day if they're granted a permit in Elora," Nagy told CBC KW's The Morning Edition Tuesday.
He said the ministry has not yet posted the Aberfoyle renewal application for public discussion and there have been other "unprecedented" delays.
"We know that there's technical information that's showing, with the monitoring data that we insisted be put in place years ago in Aberfoyle, there is drawdown in the area," he said.
Other reports have shown problems in creeks in the area, he said.
"The lightbulb has really come on in the public psyche. They're really realizing that this is a luxury I don't think that we ever could afford," Nagy said.
Water not a commodity
On Monday, the Central Student Association at the University of Guelph also issued a release saying it stands with those calling for Nestlé to stop extracting water.
The statement asked the provincial government not to renew Nestlé's permit and said, "water is a human right, not a commodity."
When asked whether the CSA saw an issue with a professor accepting money from the water giant, Zoey Ross, the CSA communications and corporate affairs commissioner, sent an emailed statement to CBC News.
"In January 2016, University of Guelph undergraduate students voted on a motion asking the University of Guelph to divest in companies involved in the sale of bottled water. As this is what our members have called for, it is our duty as the Central Student Association to reaffirm this mandate," Ross wrote.
Understand the aquifer
Parker said her research – which focuses on improving the monitoring systems of the Silurian dolostone aquifer that lies beneath the feet of Ontarians from Niagara Falls to Tobermory and is the water source for many municipalities – may actually reveal that Nestlé needs to stop drawing water in Aberfoyle.
But her short-term goal is to just better understand the resource.
"At this point in time, I think we still have lots of water, but I'm not sure that we should be making decisions as if that is always going to be the case," Parker said.
"I think we're realizing that each decision that's made that impacts that aquifer can't be made in isolation anymore. We have to start thinking about the compounding effects or the interaction effects that may be facing us, if not today, perhaps even in the future."
Be concerned about water, says prof
Guelph in particular has a number of residents who are well-versed in groundwater research, Parker said.
"I firmly believe that it's a good sign that the people in this community are very passionate about water. It's unusual for me as a groundwater scientist to have many laypeople know much about what I do," she said.
But there is still a lot of information people are unaware of, she added.
"We're using water all over the place in our community in ways that I think people would be astonished to think about if they were able to see all the information put in front of them and I think that's what we need to start doing as a community," she said. "We should be concerned about our water resources and we should be passionate about it, and then we need to be informed."
Nestle's water taking permit in Aberfoyle under review by Ontario's Ministry of Environment
The Canadian Press August 25, 2016
Bottled water companies in Ontario may soon have to pay more and take less water as public outcry over revelations that the province charges them just $3.71 for every million litres triggered a government review.
There is a difference between taking water for agricultural or industrial use and taking it to sell bottled water, Premier Kathleen Wynne said Wednesday. Some of the conditions of the permits for bottled water use are outdated, she said.
"There's the issue of the quantity of water that's taken, there's the issue of the cost of that water," Wynne said.
"Also, there's an issue around the timing. As we all know, it's been a dry summer and so I think we need to look at what are the right triggers in place in terms of quantities that are allowable given the conditions."
Wynne has asked Environment Minister Glen Murray to review permit conditions for bottled water companies. It will look at whether there is a sufficient price on removing water, he said.
"I think for some of the folks that are removing it and taking it away, that they got a really sweet deal," he said. "Maybe too sweet a deal."
Times have changed
Environmental group Wellington Water Watchers is urging Ontario not to renew a permit for Nestle Waters in Aberfoyle, Ont., that expired on July 31. It's upset that the company has been allowed to keep extracting water from a local well in the midst of a severe drought in the province.
A water-taking permit remains in force if a renewal application is made at least 90 days before it expires.
"Quite frankly, that window gives us an opportunity to look at what should change, rather than issuing a new permit under the same parameters as the former permit, which I think would not be appropriate," Wynne said.
Times have changed, she said.
"Thirty years ago, we wouldn't have envisioned an industry that took water and put it in plastic bottles so that people could carry it around," Wynne said.
"I mean, we didn't drink water from plastic bottles 30 years ago. We turned on the tap and the fact is our tap water in Ontario is among the best in the world."
Nestle Canada has two permits to take up to 4.7 million litres of water every day for bottling. Other bottled water companies with large water-taking permits in Ontario include Gold Mountain Springs, Gott Enterprises and St. Joseph Natural Spring Water.
'All groundwater users should pay their fair share': Nestle
Ontario charges companies just $3.71 for every million litres of water after they pay a permit fee of $750 for low- or medium-risk water takings, or $3,000 for those considered a high risk to cause an adverse environmental impact.
Nestle Waters Canada said it has built a "solid body of scientific data on the local water resources" and has a long-term
"This monitoring program goes above our permitted requirements and we have always been compliant with the government set rate for water taking," the company said in a statement.
"We fully agree that all groundwater users should pay their fair share to fund the management of our water resources and all users must be treated equitably...We share Premier Wynne's concerns and are committed to being part of the solution."
Wellington Water Watchers called Wynne's comments encouraging.
"Three dollars and seventy-one cents is obviously wholly inadequate," said board chair Mike Nagy. "We would actually like to see most of these permits phased out, to be honest, and we oppose new consumptive permits."
Rising level of N. Saskatchewan River to put hold on oil-spill cleanup
The Canadian Press August 25, 2016
REGINA -- A government spokesman says cleanup of an oil spill along the North Saskatchewan River will be put on hold due to an anticipated rise in water levels.
Wes Kotyk with the Saskatchewan Environment Ministry says heavy rainfall in Alberta means water flows are expected to rise up to two metres starting this weekend.
But Kotyk says there's enough time to complete the shore cleanup before the water starts to freeze in October.
The government says that there have been 144 confirmed wildlife deaths, including 51 aquatic species, since a Husky Energy (TSX:HSE) pipeline leaked last month near Maidstone, Sask.
Meanwhile, the province's Water Security Agency says one sample out of 120 taken from the river did not meet drinking water guidelines.
That sample was taken five centimetres below the surface of the river at North Battleford.
The agency says 16 samples showed amounts of chemicals that exceed guidelines for the protection of aquatic life.
It also took sediment samples and found hydrocarbons at some sites.
The city of Prince Albert lifted water restrictions on Wednesday. Officials said they are confident there is ample supply from two temporary water lines. A leak found in one of the hoses is not expected to change the situation for now, agency spokesman Sam Ferris said Thursday.
Saskatchewan working to develop comprehensive flood risk assessment
The Canadian Press August 24, 2016
REGINA — The Saskatchewan government is developing a provincial flood and natural hazard risk assessment.
Emergency management commissioner Duane McKay says risk assessments have been done in several areas of government and by municipalities, but acknowledges there’s no province-wide plan.
“What we’re doing now is we’re bringing all of this together to do a comprehensive risk mitigation project,” said McKay.
The information will be used to assess vulnerability to floods and plan mitigation projects.
“We have a lot more technology, in terms of how we can measure some of this now, then what we used to.”
McKay says some recommendations could also be made for municipalities to help determine what land should or should not be developed.
“Some municipalities have allowed development in and around lake properties and then later — and it could anywhere from immediate to many years later — those properties are flooded because water levels have come up, so it’s to take a look at development as well.”
Consultations with government agencies and others, including First Nations, are expected to begin this fall.
The final risk assessment report is due in early 2018.
The province has to do the work as part of the federal government’s National Disaster Mitigation Program, which includes funding for projects to help protect communities. The program was established in April 2015 to reduce the impact of natural disasters on Canadians.
“The amount of disasters, in terms of floods and so on, has increased significantly over the last few years and I think now is the opportune time to start doing this co-ordinated approach,” said McKay.
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