| Nov 29, 2007

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Letters - November 29, 2007


November 29Follow Up to "Are Drinking Water Standards Negotiable?", Julie DoyleUnconviced by Medical Officer's Letter Regarding THM Levels, Rosalie KnightsFollow Up to "Are Drinking Water Standards Negotiable?"

I seem to have stepped on some toes at the MOE and KFLA Health Unit. I have no wish to enter into a debate with either. I just have more questions!


Dr Gemmill, the Medical Officer of Health, claims we would be drinking safe water with trihalomethane (THM) concentration as high as 200 micrograms per litre. Why should we have to? Ontario Drinking Water Quality Standards dictate that the maximum allowable concentration (MAC) for THM is 100 micrograms per litre. In fact Ontario is phasing in a new more stringent MAC of 80 micrograms per litre. It seems an odd statement for Dr Gemmill to make and an odd time to be making it.

Dr Gemmill’s office sent a fact sheet suggesting we install in-house water treatment at our taps if we wanted to remove the THMs from our municipal water. OUCH!! Didn’t we just spend $8 million on a water plant designed (supposedly) to match the water conditions in Sydenham Lake?

Why isn’t this plant capable of producing a quality product? Is the design of the plant flawed? Has the lake water changed due to some environmental disaster? (Please don’t compare our lake to far north black water.) Testing frequency would suggest that the powers that be knew there was a problem from the get-go.

John Steele from the MOE says we will have to comply with the Ontario drinking water standards eventually. Is this because failure to meet the standard makes the plant ‘Noncompliant with the terms and conditions of the Certificate of Approval’?

Dare I ask if this failure to produce a product that meets minimum standards is the reason why our frontage bills are so tardy? I mean if you hire a roofer to replace a roof and the new one leaks, do you cut him a cheque? In the meantime Sydenham receives water of a quality far inferior to Bath, Odessa, Gananoque and Amherstview. (All are less than 50 micrograms per litre!)

So the answer to my original question seems to be “YES, the Ontario drinking water standards are negotiable!”

Oh, and please stop telling us to drink more water to make the problem go away. If the THMs were controlled properly in the plant, then there would be no problem with them at the tap!

Julie Doyle, Sydenham

Unconvinced By Medical Officer's Letter Regarding THM Levels

More contradictions abound in the continuing saga of the ill-fated, ill-conceived Sydenham Water System. Sydenham householders have received a belated letter from the local Medical Officer of Health, attempting to alert us and allay fears about the possible carcinogenic Trihalomethanes found in our municipal water. But I find that the information given therein does not allay the concern that I, and many others, have with the current situation.

The letter says that harm from ingesting and inhaling the THM-affected water is only a concern on a long-term basis and that in the short term we have nothing to worry about. I suppose this means that us old folks can breathe easy, but what about the hundreds of kids in our two schools? There are apparently no definitive results from studies as yet, but since the studies are being undertaken, then there must be some evidence of an existing problem. From my reading found on the Health Canada website, there is also concern about THMs and pregnancy. In these cases all precautions should be taken NOW. Isn’t it better to err on the safe side? The province has set the maximum limit of THMs at l00mg/L. So why is it acceptable to have double that amount appearing in our drinking water? Included with the letter from the MOH is information stating that the province is now seriously considering LOWERING the maximum to .80mg/L. This would seem to demonstrate that there is definitely an ongoing concern.

Regarding the statement about kidney stones, I don’t believe it was ever suggested that they could be caused by THMs. However, there is strong anecdotal evidence of a sudden rise locally in this condition, which may be yet another harmful result of drinking the water.

It would appear that a lot of the warnings that the people of Sydenham tried to express before and during the planning process of this water system are unfortunately coming true. The councils of the time, especially the first one that passed the actual by-law, were oblivious to any voices except those of the engineering company, who were obviously bent on gaining the lucrative contract by any means. It was too large a project for such a small population, as the province has since recognized. There are too many issues to go into now, but it has been a worry for many people and continues to be, since we are still waiting for the “big bill” for the building of the system and wondering why the delay. The last estimate for our share was over $10,000, which is a lot of money for two seniors and a single mom to find, plus the monthly bill for water we neither wanted nor intend to use.

I note from an article in the Gazette that there are to be funds available for certain dwellings near the water intake pipe to update septic systems etc. in order to protect the water quality in the lake. Was the location of the water intake another mistake in the plant design?

Perhaps there could be funds to dredge the weeds that bring about the THM problem as well!

In conclusion, THMs ARE a concern, whether it’s for long or short term and the people using this water should have been notified immediately. Council should have published these results months ago and then residents could make their own decision whether or not to use the water until the THM issue is resolved. In fact, one wonders if the belated letter would have been written at all were it not for members of the SSWA working behind the scenes and a very vocal citizen who did some research and then confronted the powers-that-be.

Rosalie Knights

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