Fer­gu­son seeks way to save pop­u­lar ru­ral well

Won­ders if there are ways to re­move the ar­senic in wa­ter

The Hamilton Spectator - - LOCAL - RICHARD LEITNER

An­caster Coun. Lloyd Fer­gu­son says he wants the city to see if there’s a “rea­son­ably priced” way to re­move the ar­senic in a pop­u­lar Sul­phur Springs Road well’s wa­ter to al­low it to re­main open to the pub­lic.

He said he plans to in­tro­duce a mo­tion at the Aug. 17 pub­lic works com­mit­tee ask­ing for a staff re­port on po­ten­tial treat­ment op­tions.

The well wa­ter’s ar­senic lev­els typ­i­cally range be­tween 17 and 23 parts per bil­lion — within the ex­ist­ing limit of 25 but about dou­ble the new stan­dard of 10 set to take ef­fect on Jan. 1.

The new limit on the car­cino­gen has prompted owner Hamil­ton Con­ser­va­tion Author­ity to sig­nal plans to close the well by the end of the year.

“I know UV light will re­move E. coli, but I don’t know if it re­moves ar­senic. I don’t know if a fil­ter would do it, or maybe there’s some dif­fer­ent tech­nol­ogy,” Fer­gu­son said, sug­gest­ing a re­verse-os­mo­sis sys­tem as an­other pos­si­bil­ity.

“The con­ser­va­tion author­ity are not wa­ter peo­ple; they’re con­ser­va­tion­ists and they look af­ter nat­u­ral ar­eas,” he said.

“Maybe (we can) ar­range through the city bud­get, if it’s rea­son­ably priced and it will work, to have the city do it be­cause they’re the wa­ter ex­perts.”

Fer­gu­son’s pro­posal for a pos­si­ble city-led so­lu­tion came a day af­ter Save Our Spring, a group ded­i­cated to keep­ing the well open, held a sec­ond pub­lic meet­ing that drew about 70 peo­ple. Fol­low­ing an open dis­cus­sion where many on hand in­di­cated they rely on the well for their drink­ing wa­ter, the meet­ing broke into smaller groups to dis­cuss three tasks set by or­ga­niz­ers.

Th­ese in­cluded find­ing a way to sur­vey how many peo­ple use the well and why; re­view­ing ar­senic lev­els in bot­tled wa­ter and juices; and re­search­ing pos­si­ble le­gal strate­gies to keep the well open.

Chris McLeod, a mem­ber of SOS’s steer­ing com­mit­tee, sug­gested the well is wrongly clas­si­fied as a small drink­ing wa­ter sys­tem, re­quir­ing it to meet the same stan­dards as city wa­ter. He said there are two other clas­si­fi­ca­tions, for spring wa­ter and min­eral wa­ter, which have less strin­gent stan­dards.

“It may come down to a le­gal ar­gu­ment, but it may also come down to specifics of lan­guage,” McLeod said.

“It can be some­thing as sim­ple as, well, let’s change the lan­guage so that’s ac­tu­ally more ac­cu­rate be­cause we do not con­sider that to be a small drink­ing wa­ter sys­tem, but we ac­tu­ally con­sider it to be a min­eral-wa­ter source that we are all bot­tling for free.”

But the con­ser­va­tion author­ity man­ager who is rec­om­mend­ing the well’s clo­sure threw cold wa­ter on the idea of re­clas­si­fy­ing the well when con­tacted the next day.

Matt Hall, direc­tor of cap­i­tal projects and strate­gic ser­vices, said Hamil­ton’s pub­lic health depart­ment has clas­si­fied the well as a small drink­ing wa­ter sys­tem, a view con­firmed by the author­ity’s own le­gal ad­vice.

“We’ve ex­plained that to that group a num­ber of times and they still seem to be adamant that there might be a way around it,” he said. “We haven’t been in­formed or found a way around that. In fact, we’ve been told this is what it is and that’s why it has to com­ply.”

Ac­cord­ing to Health Canada, a pop­u­la­tion of 100,000 peo­ple drink­ing 1.5 litres of wa­ter with ar­senic at 10 parts per bil­lion for 70 years could ex­pect three to 39 ad­di­tional lung, blad­der or liver can­cers when all other fac­tors are ex­cluded.

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