Residents hope ministry can find source of foul-smelling water

PUSLINCH – About 25 homes on Fielding Lane, south of Morriston, have had smelly water coming from their taps for a couple of weeks.

The owners are seeking help from the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks (MECP) to determine the cause.

“A few weeks ago, a neighbour had an odour and it’s migrated to neighbouring wells including ours,” said Jason Ganning, who has lived in his home for almost a decade.

The smell is like rotting vegetables, Ganning said, and it’s overpowering, especially first thing in the morning.

All of the homes are on private wells and while they have notified the township, the municipality has no jurisdiction over private wells.

Puslinch does not have a municipal water or wastewater system.

Around July 7, neighbours took water samples to Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health for testing and no E. coli or coliform was detected.

But no cause of the odour was found either.

Danny Williamson, spokesperson for the local public health unit, said bacteria like E. coli and coliform don’t have a smell, so even if it is detected, it’s not likely the cause of the foul smells.

“It smells like rotting broccoli,” Ganning said. 

“I will shower in it but no one else in my home will. And we’ve been buying bottled water for cooking and drinking.”

One affected person contacted BlueTriton Brands (formerly Nestle Waters) hoping for some assistance, and BlueTriton obliged.

“In late June, a local resident reached out to us for expert advice regarding an apparent well issue in her neighborhood. We immediately provided her with connections to local experts,” stated natural resources manager Dr. Andreanne Simard in an email. 

“We have also offered all affected residents an emergency supply of bottled drinking water while the problem is being investigated by provincial and local officials. As always, we are happy to be able to assist those in need in our community.”

Ganning said the group contacted the MECP hotline when the same odour was detected in a ditch at an address on Highway 6 in the area.

The environment ministry contacted the Ministry of Transportation (MTO) to test the soil in the ditch.

“Last night the MTO cordoned off the area on Highway 6,” Ganning said on July 13. “The MTO will conduct a soil sample and determine if there was a spill.

“The MTO told us they think this is a naturally occurring odour, possibly because of all the rain. But it’s very coincidental the smell in the ditch is the same as our wells.”

Ganning said the area has had rain events before and never had this smell coming from the taps.

And he said the water on the Highway 6 property killed vegetation in the ditch.

“It makes me wonder what ran down that driveway and what the soil studies will show,” he said. “Is (the smell) from surface water bleeding into the water table? Or is it something else?”

Tanya Blazina, spokesperson for the MTO, stated in an email that information is not yet known.

“The Ministry of Transportation was recently made aware of potential illegal dumping along Highway 6 at Concession Road 1, about 500m north of Fielding Lane,” she said.

 “The ministry has notified the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks and the [Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Heath unit], and is working collaboratively to expedite the testing of water and soil samples and will determine next steps following the outcome of the investigation.”

Lindsay Davidson, spokesperson for the MECP, stated in an email ministry staff attended the area on July 11 and did not note any spills in the area.

Samples were taken from four private water wells and have been sent to the ministry laboratory for analysis. 

Davidson said results are expected this week.

“In addition, a ministry hydrogeologist has reviewed the geology of the area and has advised that the cause of the odour is unlikely to be from a spill in the immediate area due to the impermeable nature and thickness of ground covering the water table (the depth that the wells are drawing water from),” Davidson said.

Meanwhile, residents wait and hope to find an answer soon.

“We want the solution to clean water,” Ganning said.

“Whether there was an accident or spill, we want our water back.

“Water is the most protected resource, and we expect swift action. It’s hard to run a household without it.”