Source water risk management plans being negotiated in Wellington North past deadline

KENILWORTH – A report to Wellington North council from Centre Wellington risk management official Kyle Davis outlined the activity of Source Water Protection staff within the township last year.

After contamination of E-coli in Walkerton’s water 23 years ago, which led to 2,300 sick people and seven deaths, the Clean Water Act was passed requiring Source Water Protection Plans to be developed across the province with a goal of protecting clean and safe drinking water at its source.

The Wellington Source Water Protection Plan is shared throughout the county and overseen by Davis.

A 2022 change to the Saugeen Valley Source Protection Plan – “[strengthening] protection related to winter maintenance activities in areas closest to municipal wells,” according to Davis’ report – caused 20 additional properties in Mount Forest, such as parking lots, to be subjected to the Saugeen Valley plan.

“Staff will now begin to implement the amendments, including following up on conservation authority outreach to affected property owners,” stated Davis in the Feb. 6 report to council.

Source water staff have identified and monitored properties with “threat activities” to drinking water in Wellington North, at times requiring intervention.

“Staff complete a variety of tasks to remove or confirm and then mitigate activities identified as potential significant drinking water threats,” Davis wrote.

An estimated 78 per cent of the properties identified to date have been addressed, while the remaining 22% still require action to “remove, confirm, or mitigate activity.”

“The majority of the remaining threat activities are winter maintenance or chemical handling [and] storage activities,” states the report.

There were 46 inspections of activity near wells including 16 compliance inspections, with “no contraventions found.”

“The inspections were to ensure compliance with manure application and storage prohibitions, review winter maintenance activities and/or review/confirm chemical/fuel handling and storage,” Davis wrote.

Risk management plans are required for sites with potential threat activity operating near wells.

As an example, if fuel was spilled while refuelling trucks, a plan would detail how to mitigate the effects.

There are four such plans that have yet to be signed in the township, related to chemical or fuel handling and storage.

Two of the plans require corporate input, and potentially approval from parent corporations of the properties, Davis notes.

“This has lengthened the negotiations,” he stated, adding there was a Dec. 31, 2022 deadline.

Plans “are being negotiated” beyond the deadline, and it’s anticipated they will be agreed to this year.

Risk management plans can be forced through an order, though Davis wrote staff haven’t yet escalated the issue “so [as] not to disrupt negotiations.”