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Maintain “barrier-free” rural well water testing for better public health, LPRCA advises the province

The Long Point Region Conservation Authority (LPRCA) is asking the Minister of Health not to act upon a recommendation to gradually phase out free rural well water testing within Ontario.

The proposal appeared in the 2023 Auditor General’s report, recommending the phase-out by Public Health Ontario (PHO) in conjunction with the Ministry of Health, as part of the streamlining efforts public health laboratories throughout Ontario.  

In response, the LPRCA board sent a unanimously-passed resolution in a letter to Sylvia Jones, the Minister of Health asking that PHO reject the proposal in order to keep the testing service free.

“The Long Point Region watershed has a total population of approximately 100,000 people. Of those, approximately one-third rely on private water sources for their drinking water supply,” reads the letter, dated on May 2. “These private water sources … are not actively monitored. With the recommendation to discontinue free water testing, we fear many residents will not undertake regular testing and will be put at risk.”

Calling for “barrier-free access for well water testing”, the resolution stated that “private water systems (eg. wells) are not protected through legislated requirements under the Safe Drinking Water Act 2002 and the Clean Water Act 2006, but are more likely to contribute to cases of gastrointestinal illness than municipal systems.”  

Copies of the resolution went to area MPPs, and to the ministers of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, and the Environment, Conservation and Parks, as well as to Conservation Ontario, and the province’s 36 conservation authorities. 

These conservation authorities in turn circulated the resolution to the individual municipalities within their watersheds for consideration, said LPRCA chairperson Robert Chambers, who signed the letter. Many of them are endorsing the resolution in their own communication to the province.

“It’s a free service, but it’s for the purpose of public health  and the best way to achieve that is through water testing,” said Chambers, whose Burford Township farm lies near the Big Creek watershed headwaters.  “What would you sooner have to drink – good water or bad water?”  

Chambers, who is also a 40-year veteran of Brant County Council, said that an estimated 20 to 30 percent of rural Brant residents found “adverse effects” after testing their wells. “We should encourage water to be tested as any percentage is too high. You want safe water, if we’re concerned about health of rural residents.”

On May 10, Haldimand-Norfolk MPP Bobbi Ann Brady sent her own letter of support to the Minister of Health. ”May I remind you that this water not only services rural residents but is also used in farming operations,” the letter stated.  “Would Ontario residents not want the security of knowing that water that washes their asparagus, their potatoes and other food have been tested as much as possible?” 

Chambers expects that the province will reconsider the proposal: “I think resolution will have an impact if the government is concerned about the health of rural people because everyone drinks water.” 


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