Popular spring closed off after decades of public use
New owners plan to make water available again
FOX RIVER - A popular watering hole here could once again be available to the public, if the new property owners have their way.
For decades people have stopped at the Fox River watering spring, usually to fill up a few jugs to take home. That stopped in September, when the water lines were quietly removed, leaving people scratching their heads.
For whatever reason the lines were removed, new property owner Karen Faulkner said she and husband Craig plan on making the water available again.
“We are planning on putting the line back in, but it probably won’t be until spring,” she said. “We want to check the crock and make sure that it’s not filled with debris or anything. But it’s just getting too cold.”
The Faulkners purchased the property about a month ago, she explained, but it was the previous owner who had the water lines removed after being contacted by the department of environment (DOE).
The DOE office in Amherst had been contacted about the site by the medical office of health, after people who drank water from there reported becoming sick from giardia, a parasitic infection also known as “beaver fever.”
Tanya MacKenzie, an inspector specialist at the Amherst DOE office, inspected the site on Sept. 9, and determined it was unsafe.
“You’re taking an awful chance, drinking spring water running down that hill,” she said. “It’s not tested, and you never know what’s in the water at any given point in time.”
She said that there are likely E. coli bacteria from animal feces in the water, and also pointed to any chemicals sprayed in the blueberry fields above as a potential risk.
Locals and visitors alike have filled up there for years, with many claiming it to be the besttasting water around. Ron Shaw, who grew up nearby, said his family drank water from that spring for years and never once got sick.
“We used it every day, year-round for drinking,” he said. “In the summer we usually had to haul water from the spring when the well went dry. I believe my family got water there for at least 50 years.”
Another local resident, Michael Fuller, said he too has drunk water from there for many years, as have his visitors who have come here to take part in paragliding.
“When paraglider pilots come here they always stop there to fill their jugs,” he said. “No one that I know of has ever become ill. Because of the surface nature of the spring it undoubtedly gets corrupted from time to time with surface run-off, which can have bacteria that’s not ‘passable.’ However, the deep spring sure seems very pure.”
Faulkner said her family has also enjoyed that water for about 30 years, and never once got sick. The chance to make water available there again was one of the main reasons she wanted to buy the property.
Once the lines are reinstalled, she said they would post a sign advising people to use the water at their own risk.
“When Craig was working this summer on blueberries, he drank out of a brook and ended up getting sick,” she said. “But he wasn’t thinking of suing the person who owns the property, because it was his choice to drink out of the brook.”
Fuller agreed, saying people could just as easily get sick from food in their own fridge.
“How quickly we move to the lowest common denominator, thus letting a glitch define our freedom to enjoy our world,” he said. “We take risks every day.”
Local county councillor Don Fletcher looked into the matter after residents contacted him about the removal of water lines from the site. He said it is important to have public water available for people that is tested and controlled, and pointed to the public water source made available by the municipality next to the Harrison’s store outside of Amherst as an example.
“When I was a kid, any brook that ran 20 feet over rocks, you could drink from it,” he said. “But there is a lot more stuff being sprayed and things happening now than there was back then. Testing, after Walkerton, is a public responsibility and in this case it’s the landowner. If they put a sign up saying ‘Use at Your Own Risk,’ I guess that’s for a lawyer to decide, but I would think it would be OK. I do know a lot of people stop there.”
What is water from a source like the Fox River spring can change from day to day, hour to hour, according to MacKenzie, who said she would return to inspect the site again if the lines are reinstalled.
Ava Czapalay stops for a drink at the Fox River spring while planning the Age of Sail Marathon in 2011. After decades of public use, the spring had its water lines removed a few months ago, but new property owners plan to have the water access reinstalled at the site.