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Open House on Tottenham’s water met with standing-room-only crowd

April 12, 2019   ·   0 Comments

By Kira Wronska Dorward

It was standing room only Wednesday, April 2,for Tottenham’s Open House meeting about the community’s water situation.

Laine Parkins, New Tecumseh’s CAO, began the session by stating “what the Town is doing and will be continuing to do over the next couple of years” in conjunction with engineering firm R. V. Anderson, the Simcoe/Muskoka Health Organization, and the town of Collingwood.

Present at the meeting were representatives from these organizations and members of Council: Mayor Milne, Deputy Mayor Norcross, Councillor Lacey, Councillor Foster, and Councillor MacLellan.

The most concerning issue surrounding the community’s water supply is the level of THMs, or trihalomethanes, which come into the water supply through the Mill Street reservoir.

According to Dr. Charles Gardner, a Medical Officer of Health for the Simcoe/Muskoka region, THMs are a result of the chlorine added to the water reacting with other chemicals, which some research has linked to cancers, specifically of the bowels, rectum, kidneys, and liver.

The province-wide municipal safety standard specifies that the acceptable level is under 100 micrograms per litre of water.

Tottenham, while actually operating under this level, is still looking to reduce their numbers or at the very least stay at its current level.

“We want to be precautionary,” stated Gardner. “We want to err on the side of caution.”

Ken Campbell from R.V. Anderson then took over the presentation.

He outlined the public concern for water safety and aesthetics, and the proposed plan that would see implementation next year and completion in 2022.

He explained that currently there are processes of swabbing and flushing the system pipelines already in place, but the town would be implementing a new solution, the technology of which is currently only in use in one other place in Canada.

He then began to illuminate the timeline, stating that the initial plan to implement changes between 2007 and 2014 failed because “the [expected] growth didn’t happen, so the project did not proceed.” However, in 2016, a new master plan was devised mapping out the future sourcing, distribution, and storing of Tottenham’s water.

A 51% population increase is projected for the town, and the current well capacity will not be able to meet the demands of the population influx, with demand exceeding the availability of ground water.

The new master plan will see a repair in the water system’s ageing infrastructure, as well as the building of new pipelines.

A new transmission main will be built to bring water from Beeton to Tottenham, with Beeton getting its water from Alliston, who in turn will be supplied by Georgian Bay through Collingwood.

The new pipeline will see upgrades at the Mill Street reservoir, and there is currently a study underway researching how to deal with land ownership, utilities, and other challenges. The rest of the year will be spent moving to the final design and approval of the new system, with 2020 seeing the tendering of the new pipeline.

Though hampered by environmental constraints, “the Town recognizes the current challenges associated with the town water. It’s really important to understand the Town meets all requirements and that construction of the new pipeline is underway.”

“It’s certainly clear that the water purity in the town has some challenges,” remarked Campbell, who also went onto point out that the problem of ageing infrastructures is not unique to Simcoe County, but prevalent in all of Ontario.

However, the 2017/2018 Annual Reports clearly show that Tottenham meets the acceptable THM safety level.

“The Town is aware that it’s a fairly high number, but it meets the guidelines,” Campbell maintained. “The Town has been investigation irrigation alternatives…a step we are hoping will present a solution.”

At the conclusion of his presentation, some Tottenham residents were unhappy with what had been presented to them, with some calling for more transparency and others demanding to know about the inherent financial impact. Campbell advised residents to find the attending staff members to direct their personal inquiries.

All Ontario municipalities must be chlorinated, as the chemical is useful in maintaining the quality of water through the pipe distribution process. However, it is common that the amount of iron in Ontario water combines with the chlorine to create a precipitation resulting in discolouration. However, since THMs are completely colourless and tasteless, they are completely unrelated to the discolouration.

About the Region’s role in safeguarding the water supply, Gardner said, “our role is to advise municipalities about safety of water to reduce THM levels. I’m happy to say they [New Tecumseth] have been taking our advice seriously. Additionally, he added “the level of risk is calculated to be 1 in 1,000,000 persons” contracting cancer “above those levels. No, it’s a very low-risk. The safety standards are designed to be precautionary- we want to be precautionary.”

For more information, please call the toll-free helpline at 1-877-721-7520, and visit the official website at


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