Township seeks meeting to discuss extension of water taking moratorium

ELORA – Centre Wellington is seeking a meeting with the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks to discuss the township’s water supply and the provincial commercial water bottling moratorium that expires on Jan. 1.

“Over the past number of years the township has lobbied the province to take measures to protect the township’s long-term water supply,” said township CAO Andy Goldie in his report to council on Oct. 28.

“Based on municipal lobbying, the province initiated a moratorium, which halted all new commercial water bottling permit approvals.”

Centre Wellington is waiting for the province to make a decision on a proposed Nestlé Waters Canada well on Middlebrook Road.

Nestlé is seeking an extension of the Middlebrook site’s permit to draw 300 gallons of water per minute (1.6 million litres per day).

Corporate affairs director Jennifer Kerr told the Advertiser the moratorium is not affecting the daily operations of Nestlé Waters Canada.

“We obviously would like to see an end to it,” she said, again stressing the moratorium has no impact on its wells in Aberfoyle and Hillsburgh.

Kerr said the company is conducting long-term monitoring at its property on Middlebrook Road, but it does not have a permit to conduct pumping tests.

Nestlé Waters purchased the five acre property in 2016. The company had a conditional offer on the land for 18 months before activating a clause to proceed with the purchase when an anonymous party made a firm offer on the property. It was later revealed the offer came from Centre Wellington Township.

“I think this is the sixth meeting we’ve had with (the government),” said Mayor Kelly Linton.

“This is just another opportunity for us to follow through with our direction, strategic plan to continue to lobby the provincial government.”

Goldie said the municipality would like to talk to the Minister of Environment, Conservation and Parks about extending the moratorium for Centre Wellington until Jan. 1, 2023.

“It would be quite irresponsible to not extend it,” Rob Case, chair of the Wellington Water Watchers, told the Advertiser.

That said, Case noted local water advocates would much prefer phasing out permits altogether for water bottling operations.

He said a Tier 3 water study in Centre Wellington is not yet complete and the process for reviewing new permits does not consider plastic pollution or climate change.

The Tier 3 report, along with the township’s long-term master plan, provides substantial scientific analysis.

Case said the minister should meet as soon as possible with officials from Centre Wellington Township and Save Our Water to discuss the matter, including the impact the proposed Middlebrook well in Elora could have on drinking water for a growing community.

Centre Wellington council unanimously supported the recommendation to ask MPP Ted Arnott to pursue a meeting with the minister or deputy minister of the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks to discuss the protection of water and request the moratorium be extended to June 1, 2023.

– With files from Chris Daponte