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
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
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
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.