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Tottenham Water holding public meeting Tuesday

November 29, 2019   ·   0 Comments

By Wendy Gabrek

In response to questions that have arisen after a recent article published by the Toronto Star, the advocacy group, Tottenham Water, will host a public information session at the Tottenham Community & Fitness Centre on December 3, starting at 7 p.m. on the quality of Tottenham’s drinking water.

“Our Community Advocacy Group, Tottenham Water, supports residents’ demands for Clean Water Now, through our #CleanWaterCampaign,” Tottenham Water co-founder, Cheryl Anne Schmidt told The Times.

At the time of the meeting, Tottenham Water will present a set of demands and seek a mandate from the community to take action with additional details at the meeting. The meeting will also be taped for those that cannot attend, and Special Guest David Donnelly, a lawyer with the Wellington Water Watchers (wellingtonwaterwatchers@gmail.com), will speak. 

The Wellington Water Watchers sent out this press release on November 18:

“High levels of carcinogenic trihalomethanes (THMs) in Tottenham’s drinking water cause concern.

95% of residents in a recent survey in the small Ontario community of Tottenham doubt the safety of their tap water due to high levels of carcinogenic trihalomethanes (THMs) in municipal water supply.

“THM levels in Tottenham’s drinking water have persistently exceeded Canadian drinking water quality standards for several years. However, very little corrective action has been taken to address this pressing issue.”

Local grassroots group Tottenham Water surveyed 500 residents on their experience with and attitudes about their drinking water. A vast majority of residents in the survey have problems with their water and many have fears about impact on their health of drinking and bathing in water with high levels of trihalomethanes.

• 20% of Tottenham residents who took the survey have never seen clear water come from their taps.

• Almost 3 in 4 of respondents (73%) have concerns about the impacts Tottenham’s water might have on the lives of their household members, including children.  

• 66% of respondents have considered moving due to the on-going water problems and related health concerns.

• Water quality problems create a number of different economic burdens on Tottenham residents, including the need to purchase filtered water and damage to appliances.

• Tottenham Water, a citizen-based community advocacy group, organized the survey. Nancy McBride (Tottenham Water co-founder) states, “We have tried for four years, to get municipal and provincial governments to acknowledge Tottenham’s deplorable municipal drinking water and take meaningful action…Finally, in response to overwhelming public response at an April 2019 public meeting the New Tecumseth Council made a hasty and belated decision to approve a sole source $800K contract to install an aeration system. This system is not proven to effectively reduce trihalomethanes and will not address the iron issue at all. It is at best a band-aid solution to the problem of THM’s in our drinking water.”

Wellington Water Watchers helped with design of survey and hired an independent researcher to analyse the results. Nancy McBride contacted Wellington Water Watchers in the spring of 2019 to ask for advice and support in getting more public attention.

Mike Balkwill (Campaign Director Wellington Water Watchers) said, “Political representatives at all three levels of government bear responsibility for the drinking water situation in Tottenham. A comprehensive plan to ensure the quality of Tottenham drinking water is required. In addition, an epidemiological study into possible health impacts of short and long-term exposure to THM’s will be an important step in restoring trust between Tottenham residents and their elected representatives.”

In response to the reports, the Town of New Tecumseth released this statement through its Twitter account, and website on Thursday November 21, 2019: 

“The Town of New Tecumseth takes the health and wellbeing of our community seriously and is committed to ensuring our residents’ safety.

“Tottenham’s drinking water supply meets all the Province of Ontario’s drinking water regulations and the Town is in regular communication with both the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit and the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks. The Town strictly adheres to all testing and reporting regulations. 

“The Town’s Water Supply, Distribution and Storage Master Plan (WMP) includes a plan to connect Tottenham to the Georgian Bay pipeline in order to meet the long-term Tottenham water supply needs and address the well water quality and reduce discolouration. The long-term solution is to replace the Tottenham groundwater supply with a connection to the Beeton water system. The Town is working with Collingwood to secure increased water capacity.

“The 2020 Capital Budget for the construction of the trunk main and reservoir is $16,385,000. The Tottenham transmission main is currently under design and is scheduled to be tendered in the spring of 2020 and then expected to be online by 2022.

“Tottenham’s water is solely sourced from ground water wells and its natural make-up consists of high iron content and naturally occurring organics which is the primary reason for periodic discolouration. “The Water Master Plan includes a plan to connect Tottenham to the pipeline.

“The existing Tottenham water supply is provided by four groundwater wells which have challenging natural water quality. There is presence of methane, elevated natural ammonia leading to a need for high chlorine dosages for disinfection, presence of natural bromide and elevated natural iron resulting in aesthetic concerns. The dosage and treatment with chlorine contributes to elevated levels of THMs. The Chief Drinking Water Inspector annual report and 2019 Tottenham Annual Report confirm that Tottenham meets all THM drinking water regulations.

“There are two key challenges that contribute to high THM levels in the Tottenham treated water supply.  Elevated bromide in raw water and the chlorine dosage needed to overcome the elevated ammonia levels while maintaining disinfection requirements. The current infrastructure provides limited to no ability to further optimize the operational processes to reduce THM production.  Consequently, there is no ability to decrease the chlorine concentration to levels that reduce THM formation while maintaining disinfection requirements to ensure the water supply is safe from harmful bacteria.

“The Town recently installed an Aeration System in the Mill Street Reservoir in Tottenham. We are currently conducting a 6 to 8-week monitoring and sampling phase in order to establish a baseline to assess the effectiveness of the Aeration System in reducing trihalomethanes (THM) in the Tottenham Water System. This will include additional post-installation bench scale modelling and a distribution system analysis. 

“The Town continues to work with the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit and the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks.”

For more information about Tottenham Water email tottenhamswaterissue@gmail.com



         


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