Tuesday, March 19, 2013


Today's Waterloo Region Record carrys this story "Land cleanup incentives given nod". Once again it is a method of transferring taxpayers money to ongoing profitable businesses. It is a direct result of past politicians making sure that there were not practical legal methods to prevent polluting businesses from abandoning their environmental responsibilities. Therefore major manufacturers who made millions of dollars of profits for their owners were able throughout Waterloo Region to legally walk away from their contaminated sites. The result is a legacy of "brownfield" sites throughout the Region that have sat polluting groundwater for decades. They are only redeveloped into condominiums, seniors homes, residential developments and other purposes after they have been cleaned to at least a minimum standard.

The three biggest areas of concern are of course Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge. Here in Elmira and St. Jacobs our tap water comes from a pipeline from Waterloo to us. Therefore the sins of Waterloo's drinking water become ours. Trichloroethylene is the most obvious culprit and comes from the downtown Waterloo area due to multiple past manufacturers. The William St. wells have long been polluted with this carcinogenic chemical. Quoting today's Record "City staff estimate there are at least 24 contaminated properties in Waterloo, mostly uotown, at major intersections and old industrial sites along the rail line.". My first question is whether this means there are 24 different sources of contamination or whether this is the number of contaminated properties after the groundwater contamination has moved onto neighbour's property? Secondly I find the comment that there is contamination at major intersections more than a little strange. Is this no more than there has been significant excavations at major intersections for installing sewers and other infrastructure hence city staff have more empirical evidence (soil & groundwater samples) from these areas?

What I do know is this. Environmental data is not shared with the public. What I do know about Waterloo's water scares me but perhaps not as much as what I don't know. All three cities are paying for past industrial prosperity with the health of their citizens. Yes better these cleanups are done but better if they are all done, sooner than later.


  1. The Region of Waterloo is gradually making its collected data available to the public in Open Data sets. This means that citizens can use and re-use the data for mapping, tracking trends, and correlating it with other data sources. The data is licensed specifically to encourage its re-use, not restrict it.

    The Region of Waterloo data sets are available at http://www.regionofwaterloo.ca/en/regionalGovernment/OpenDataHome.asp

    There is a citizens' group called OpenDataWR that encourages governments to make their collected data available in standardized, re-usable formats. http://opendatawr.ca They meet occasionally to work on new applications

    OpenDataWR recently held a hackathon, where groups of people worked on new projects that makes uses of Open Data: http://wiki.opendataday.org/Kitchener-Waterloo2013 It was mostly computer programmers at the hackathon, but we need advocates like you with deep knowledge of the data, science, and the meaning of the data so that the programmers can write better applications. We also need publicists to make the existence of Open Data more widely known, as well as the applications that make use of it. We need lobbyists to advocate for more Open Data from governments, and from commercial organizations such as Conestoga Rovers. For instance, the University of Waterloo has an Open Data policy as well.

    As far as I know, Woolwich Township doesn't have an Open Data project, or even a policy about making its data available in open formats. For example, even something so fundemental as the Woolwich Council meeting calendar is not made available in a standard calendar format, so you can't easily add Council meetings to your own iPad or Outlook calendar.

    It would be nice to have an Open Data advocacy group in Woolwich Township. There's certainly enough data, just no good way to get at it.


  2. So, I've suggested setting up Open Data Woolwich Township on my blog.

    If anyone is interested in forming an Open Data citizen's group for Woolwich Township please leave a comment on my blog or send me e-mail at bjonkman@sobac.com.


  3. Bob: Really good info you've presented. I've looked at a lot of the Region's stuff including Annual Drinking Water Reports etc.. What I would love to see are soil and groundwater data taken from all kinds of redeveloped sites in Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge. Particularily interesting would be before and after data when a site has been "remediated".

  4. B. Fowler. OntarioMarch 27, 2013 at 10:53 AM

    Whoa! What do you mean, our water is at risk? I thought the government did regular checks on our water since Walkerton. Do we have water filters on our tap water? Does our Mayor know about this? Would it help if l called him or is it the Region that handles this? I'm sorry to ask you all these questions, but l have not read all your articles and it appears you write on water, and pollution mainly. lt seems to be more important these days to keep a clean environment. How in Gods name were these businesses allowed to just walk away and leave us such a mess for our children to endure. God will not be kind to these people come judgement day. Good work here Al Marshall and thank-you.