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Tottenham’s water supply in focus at Ontario Legislature

November 22, 2019   ·   0 Comments

The issue of contamination in Tottenham’s drinking water supply was in sharp focus at Queen’s Park on Monday morning.

On November 18, following further damning reports on the level of trihalomethanes in Tottenham’s water, members of the NDP opposition pressed government members for answers on how the Government was going to step up and fix the problem.

Trihalomethanes (THM) are a group of compounds that can sometimes be found in chlorinated water supplies drawn from a source with high levels of organic materials, according to the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit.

Studies have shown the compounds as possible carcinogens and citizen groups, most recently the Tottenham Water Citizens, have been pressing all levels of government to come up with practical solutions.

Opposition members Ian Arthur (NDP, Kingston and the Islands) and Jeff Burch (Niagara Centre) directed their questions to Deputy Premier Christine Elliott who, in turn, redirected the question to Jeff Yurek, Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks.

“Their tap water is contaminated with dangerous chemicals, including trihalomethanes, which are linked to pregnancy complications, cancers, damage to the heart, liver and central nervous system,” said Arthur. “What’s worse, these documents show the Ministry of Environment, Conservation & Parks has known about this contamination for years. The Liberals knew about it, the Conservatives knew about it, and no one has done anything. How can the government let this happen?”

In his response, the Minister said that correspondence between the Ministry and the Town of New Tecumseth has shown “the Province advised the Township to address its halomethane problem with additional treatment measures and operational practices.”

“The letter was from District Manager Cindy Hood,” the Minister elaborated. “The proposed strategies from the Ministry were considered but eliminated by the Township for various reasons. The Ministry provided recommendations which are not a legal requirement. Hopefully the Municipality is taking the proper actions going forward. I can tell you one thing: water systems across this province, are in good excellent shape. We hope we will continue to work with the Town to ensure the water is going forward.”

This wasn’t enough for Burch, who continued the line of questioning.

“For more than 15 years, politicians and health officials in Ontario have known that tap water in Tottenham was unsafe, yet they didn’t feel it was necessary to let people know,” Burch added. “It is not just Tottenham. In 2016, more than 80 communities have exceeded the allowable guidelines for THM in Ontario, including North Bay, Innisfil, Kawartha Lakes and Timmins, among others. The Liberals downloaded the cost of source water protection onto municipalities. The Conservatives have followed the same pattern, further cutting municipal and conservation authority funding. Why does the acting Premier believe saving a buck is worth getting people sick?”

The Minister offered assurances the Government was working with the Town, but placed action at the feet of local lawmakers.

“The Town will continue to monitor the THM levels in Tottenham drinking water by sampling in accordance with requirements of the Tottenham Drinking Waster license,” said Yurek. “The Town expects to begin construction in 2020 of a transmission main which will connect the Tottenham drinking water system to the Collingwood-Alliston pipeline. Construction expected to be completed by 2022. In addition, the aeration system, the pipeline, is also expected to help reduce THM formation in Tottenham’s drinking water. We are working with the Township.

“I can’t answer for the previous government’s inaction, but we’re putting action in, working with the Town to ensure we clean up the water systems here and we remain committed to ensuring Ontario has the highest standards of drinking water protection and will continue to work with all our partners across Ontario.”

By Brock Weir


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