Saturday, March 1, 2014


I honestly don't know whether to laugh or cry. I am only about 2/3 of the way through all the Cambridge wells and wellfield reports that the Region of Waterloo put on their website each spring for the previous year. For the last several years I've been publicly sounding the alarm that things are seriously amiss in Cambridge. What I've read yesterday and today in a dozen separate reports representing perhaps twenty Cambridge wells is frankly nonsensical and unbelieveable. My first impression is where is Cambridge getting their tap water from? Well after well is either off-line for the entire year or shut down from fifteen to twenty-five weeks during 2013.

Perhaps good news is that more and more industrially contaminated wells are being shut down while at the same time the Middleton Wellfield is being treated with an Advanced Oxidation Process (AOP). Upgrades last year were to the tune of $16 million. They included doubling the Ultra Violet (UV) disinfection units from two to four as well as chemically breaking down the tricloroethylene (TCE). Speaking of TCE the vast majority of dissolved chemicals in Cambridge, if tested and published, are done so but once a year. Well P6 just south of Northstar was being tested for TCE four times a year until suddenly shut down two years ago. TCE has been tested on a monthly basis at the Middleton wells for years. Last year incredibly it was being tested for TCE on a weekly basis. The results are generally between 1.5 and 3.0 parts per billion (ppb) every single week. The conclusion I am coming to is that with six wells (used to be four) in this wellfield and only absolutely minor shutdowns of a few weeks from three of them; this wellfield is carrying the load for all of Cambridge. The volumes of groundwater available are astronomical. The bad news is that the TCE contamination is also astronomical and clearly based on decades of persistence is due to free phase DNAPL (dense non aqueous phase liquid) trapped in pools or fractures and fissures in the bedrock either under Canadian General Tower or possibly now directly underneath the wellfield. This DNAPL is simply undissolved TCE which has gravity flowed to depressions or low areas underground. They will take from decades more to centuries to finally dissolve depending on their volume. I further believe that the weekly TCE monitoring is in order to manage the concentrations via dilution. Well G15 is further south outside of this wellfield but is piped into the Middleton Reservoir. Also huge volumes of groundwater come from north of the wellfield which also helps dilute the TCE concentrations. This water quality management method is contrary to the principles espoused by the O'Connor Inquiry (Walkerton) however it may well be that the Region of Waterloo have few options. The potential for a disaster and mass poisoning due to either mechanical breakdown of the treatment process or human/mechanical failure in the dilution process is a constant threat.

Well G4 is located on the west side of the Grand River almost due south of Northstar Aerospace. It was off-line for fifty weeks in 2013. In 2012 it was off-line for twenty-two weeks. Well G4A was drilled during 2013 and it was running for thirty-seven weeks. As G4A is in the same report as G4 I will assume that it is drilled beside G4 but probably simply to a different depth in hopes of finding better water. Of interest to me is that the 2013 test results indicate elevated method detection limits (MDL) for four chlorophenols and one pesticide from both the 2012 results and from other Cambridge drinking wells. I find this worrisome.

Well G5 is located just north of the former Ciba-Geigy (now Novartis). Similarily the Region drilled a new well called G5A. G5A was off-line for 51 weeks and the old well (G5) for twelve weeks. Strangely not only are there no 2013 test results but in fact for the 2013 Report the test results presented are 2011 results!

Well G6 south of Ciba-Geigy ran for fifty weeks. So far so good. It did have a positive (albeit low) result for Metolachlor. But wait a minute. Again the results in the 2013 Annual Drinking Water report are for 2011 !

Well G9 just south of Allen Bradley ran for the whole year. Yes it has TCE in it at 1.6 ppb. Wait a minute again. Why are all these results for 2011 and not 2013???

Well H3 in Hespeler was off-line for 50 weeks in 2013. It was also off-line for 25 weeks in 2012. As makes sense the test results for a well off-line for the year (2013) are all for 2012. Well H4 also in Hespeler was off-line for 52 weeks. Similar to the Galt wells (G4, G5) the Region drilled a new well called H4A. It appears to have run for the entire 2013 year but again the test results are all for 2011. In regard to these brand new wells the Region state in their Reports that "...only one of the wells operates at a time...". Well H5 was off-line for twenty-five weeks in 2013. It was also off-line for fifteen weeks in 2012. Where are the 2012 and 2013 chemical test results? Is this negligence/incompetence on the Region's part or is it even possible that these are typographical errors? Could they have inadvertently released these reports with 2011 results instead of 2012 or 2013?

Well P6 is just south of the former Northstar Aerospace. It's now been shut down for the last two years. Having 2011 test results when the well hasn't been running for two years is not unexpected.

Both wells P9 and P15 were shut down for nineteen weeks in 2013. They are located side by side just north of the former Ciba-Geigy. They both ran full time during 2012. Once again the 2012 and 2013 Report had only 2011 results in it. This lack of current published test results for drinking wells that are in production does not give the public confidence in the whole system.

No comments:

Post a Comment