| Nov 08, 2007


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Editorial - November 8, 2007

Sydenham Water Woesby Jeff Green

There is no reason to jump to Walkerton-style conclusions about the danger posed by triahlomethane (THM's) in the water that has been flowing out of the Sydenham water plant for 12 of the past 15 months. THM is not e-coli, but they are compounds that have been identified as a negative byproduct of chlorination and steps are generally taken to minimise their concentration in drinking water.

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They have been associated with increased cancer rates over very long-term use, and with low birth weight when ingested by pregnant women. There is no evidence that anyone from Sydenham has suffered harm as the result of THM in Sydenham water, but they are something that is tested for, and the results of testing normally leads to responses by government agencies, be it the Ministry of the Environment, the Health Unit, the people who designed and manage the system, and the municipality.

Without laying blame at any one agency’s feet, it looks like it has taken too long to deal with an identified problem in this case, and now that this has come to public attention, the authorities should at least keep everyone informed about this matter from now on.

In terms of the Sydenham water itself, it’s fair to say that no publicity can be good publicity.

Sydenham water has been about the most contentious issue in the 10-year history of South Frontenac Township, and the ill will towards the township council from many residents of the village lingers. This is evidenced by the fact that only 40% of households have actually hooked up to the system, even though they are paying a monthly water bill.

The township has not even asked Sydenham residents to pay for the cost of building the plant yet, and this latest controversy will not make people any happier to receive those bills, which will be between $5,000 and $10,000, depending on the size of people’s homes.

To be fair to the series of South Frontenac councils that were involved in the decision to build a water treatment plant in Sydenham, it was done in the context of provincial regulations and monetary incentives that were pushing a treatment plant in a big way. Indeed, a succession of councilors saw the water system as the only way to proceed, even with persistent local opposition from the people who are now going to pay for it.

There are water problems in other communities in South and Central Frontenac. Verona and Harrowsmith have water issues, and in the water problems in Sharbot Lake are well known. But provincial thinking about small water systems is changing.

In the recent County of Frontenac newsletter, small water systems are discussed, and the section concludes by saying, “of particular interest is the change in operational requirements. The Ministry of the Environment will now allow point-of-entry treatment to be used as an alternative to centralized treatment and distribution of water.”

This may be good news to residents in communities that will be facing water issues in the future, but for Sydenham residents, who will be receiving whopping water bills sometime soon - who are already paying $40 for water they are not using and are not now convinced is safe, it is cold comfort.

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