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Port Stanley News RSS Feed  Editorials Challenge Your Imagination

by Doug Harvey

240,584 cubic metres is probably difficult for most people to visualize, but challenge your imagination and try to visualize this as you are driving between Port Stanley and St. Thomas.

As you are driving along Sunset, imagine that the road is walled on both sides to a height of six feet. That's higher than most people are tall. Now imagine that entire length of road between Port Stanley and St. Thomas filled to a depth of six feet with untreated sewage. Now imagine driving or walking through that. Pretty gross, eh?

Well, if you fill that road from edge to edge to a depth of 6 feet for 17 kilometres - the distance between the two communities - that is what 240,584 cubic meters would look like, and that is how much untreated sewage the Ministry of the Environment audit of the St. Thomas sewage treatment plant reported as the amount of overflow from that plant into Kettle Creek between June and September of 2006. We had 582 mm of rain that year. THE MOE report said that 22 overflows had occurred in 2006 during periods of heavy rainfall, 8 of which were reported. In 2007 we had 122 mm of rain and no overflows from that sewage treatment plant. This year we are again experiencing periods of heavy, concentrated rainfalls, so what do you think is likely to happen? What do you think is likely to have already happened?

We asked Dave Schultz of the Grand River Conservation Authority (which has the lead for the Source Water Protection Committee for this area) if sewage spills or bypasses came within the mandate of the Source Protection Committee. In an email response on June 4, 2008 he wrote:

"I know that sewage spills and bypasses are an issue in several communities in our area. However, I think it's important to clarify the role of the Source Protection Committee.

It has the responsibility, under the Clean Water Act, to lead the development of a drinking water source protection plan for the Kettle Creek watershed. The SPC has no mandate to investigate or report spills. It's not an enforcement agency. It is a steering committee facilitating the work of plan development.

The focus of the work is on the sources of municipal drinking water supplies. In your case, that's the Elgin Primary intake, which is located in Lake Erie, just offshore of Port Stanley.

One important element in the plan will be an examination of the raw water quality around the intake and potential threats to the quality. That will include examining the potential impact of water coming out of Kettle Creek. If, after the research is done, it appears that spills and bypasses are a potential threat to the Elgin Primary intake, then the committee would develop policies to reduce that threat.

Implementation of the policies would be in the hands of the organizations that are now responsible for water quality and the water system, i.e. the municipality, the province, etcetera."

If it appears that spills and bypasses are a potential threat to the Elgin Primary intake? Let me ask you, our readers - would you consider a highway of raw sewage stretching from Port Stanley to St. Thomas to a depth of six feet a threat to the Elgin Primary intake?

And what about the coal tar deposit and other contaminants in Kettle Creek - will they consider those a threat to the Elgin Primary intake?

Even if these things are deemed threats, what assurances do we have that the municipalities and province will take any effective corrective action? Are we really going to see any source water protection, or is it all just a lot of hoopla to make it appear as if our various levels of government are doing their jobs.

Last Updated: Thursday, 11 August 2016 12:19:19 PM EST

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