Monday, March 27, 2017


Trichloroethylene (TCE) is a chlorinated solvent. It has been in the subsurface relatively near the Willian St. Wellfield in Waterloo probably for 70 years or so. This is one of the properties of Dense Non-Aqueous Phase Liquids (DNAPLS) in that they very slowly dissolve into groundwater over a period of decades or even centuries depending on the volume of this free phase liquid in the subsurface. Sunar, Canbar and possibly even the old Seagram's Distillery would have used TCE as a metal degreaser back in the day. Too late we learned that once released into the subsurface it was going to end up dissolved in nearby groundwater wells and continue to be
detected for many decades.

The William St. Wellfield still has other problems with its' water and they have shown up in the latest 2016 Annual (drinking water) Report. The raw water has low detections of Total Coliform and the water is very turbid (murky with suspended particles etc.). Sodium levels are off the charts compared to most other wells in Waterloo region. At 223 mg/l this water is not good for those with heart problems. Levels above 20 mg/l are reported to both the Health Department and the Ministry of Environment every five years.

Glyphosate similar to other wells in Waterloo Region is listed as <25 parts per billion (ppb.). Glyphosate is the active ingredient in the herbicide Roundup. Less than 25 ppb. (<25 ug/l) is a ridiculously high Method detection Limit for any manmade chemical and despite the current very high Ontario Drinking Water Standard it should not be in our drinking water at anywhere near that concentration.

TCE concentrations are below the current Ontario Drinking Water Standard of 5 ppb.. Nevertheless they are constantly present in the drinking water between 1.3 and 1.6 ppb.. They have been constantly present for decades and have done most citizens we are told no harm. When the drinking water standard for TCE was much higher 25 years ago I wonder if the concentrations allowed in the water were also much higher. One of the inexpensive methods of reducing TCE concentrations is through simple dilution. In other words combine more contaminated wells with others less contaminated into a reservoir and then measure the TCE levels.

Cambridge installed a multi million dollar Advanced Oxidation Process (AOP) in 2013 to further reduce their TCE concentrations in the Middleton Wellfield. Middleton historically had higher concentrations of TCE than what the William St. wells have been at. I assume that for a similar expenditure TCE levels could be lowered in the William St. Wellfield.

Lastly the William St. Wellfield has high levels of Chloramines. Chloramines are produced as a by-product of the disinfection process (ie. bacteria removal). Anything above 3 mg/l is unacceptable and this wellfield has chloramine results as high as 2.48 mg/l. Again while not good in its' own right it is also the possible synergistic effects with TCE, Glyphosate, Sodium and potentially other very low level solvents below the detection limit although still present in the water.

This drinking water may be legal but it is not acceptable to informed consumers. The reality is that we today are paying for the sins of the industrial barons who made themselves rich while dumping their waste products into our common earth, air and groundwater. We are paying both with our wallets and with our health.

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