BY TERRY BRIDGE
PALMERSTON – An open house on the protection of local drinking water was held in Palmerston last week.
The Ausable Bayfield Maitland Valley Source Protection Region hosted the Protecting Water Together information session at the Palmerston Community Centre on Thursday, Nov. 15.
Program supervisor Jenna Allain gave a 20-minute presentation on the plan to protect the local municipal well.
“Source protection planning’s been underway for the last six or seven years now,” she said. “There’s been an incredible amount of work that’s been done and it’s all culminated in the development of our source protection plan, which were finished in the summer and they were submitted to the Ministry of the Environment for review and approval in August.”
The ministry is currently reviewing it and approval is anticipated sometime in 2013. Upon approval, the plan takes immediate effect.
Source protection planning began in 2006 when the Clean Water Act was enacted. The act was developed in response to the events that took place in Walkerton in 2000.
It started with a multi-layered approach to protecting drinking water, and the purpose of the act is to protect sources of drinking water from contamination.
In 2007, 19 source protection committees were formed across the province.
“The idea of source protection is to be a local process, so each of these committees were established to develop the source protection plan locally,” Allain continued. “The committee had a number of tasks. The first was the development of terms of references and a work plan and that was approved in 2009, at which point they moved on to the development of the assessment report. The assessment report was all about identifying the drinking water supply, identifying where they’re vulnerable, and within those vulnerable areas, identifying what sorts of activities presented a potential threat to the water supply.”
Risk management plans are to be a big part of this process as well.
“They’re to be implemented by the municipality, which will hire a person called a risk management official, and there are six steps in developing a risk management plan,” Allain said.
The first step is to actually review the plan to ensure that a risk management plan is required. The next step is to look at whether any preventative steps are already in place.
The third step is comparing what those measures are to what’s recommended in the risk management catalogue. The province has come out with an online catalogue.
The next thing is to consider any specific conditions or limitations. Not every recommendation is appropriate for every situation, so the local official would take all of those options into consideration.
Then they conduct a gap analysis followed by applying professional judgment on the situation.
Prior to the plan’s approval within the ensuing two years’ deadline, there is funding available through the Ontario Drinking Water Stewardship Program. Landowners can be proactive and install best practices ahead of time.
“The window for that opportunity is quickly closing, the deadline is Dec. 1,” Allain said. “So we certainly encourage people to act now if they want to take advantage of the Stewardship Fund.”
Tim Cumming, communications specialist with the conservation authority, gave an update following the open house.
“Property owners in the Town of Minto have received close to $60,000 in funding incentives through the Ontario Drinking Water Stewardship Program (ODWSP) — which is a companion program to drinking water source protection planning — in support of those property ownersí and residents’ voluntary efforts to protect municipal sources of drinking water through projects such as well upgrades, septic upgrades, and best management practices,” he said. “The value of their projects is more than $90,000 and that’s a benefit to their properties, to the economy, to the environment, and to public health through protection of our municipal sources of drinking water (such as groundwater/aquifer sources accessed through the wells in Harriston, Palmerston, Molesworth, Listowel, Atwood, etc.). We thank those local landowners for the positive work they are doing.”