Friday, July 25, 2014


A colleague presented me recently with a series of reports written by Eco Logic on behalf of the Region of Waterloo. These reports were written in 1989 and 1990 during the height of the Elmira water crisis. Following is the complete list as I know it of industrial chemicals found in the Elmira drinking water wells and distribution system during 1989 and 1990.

Cyclohexamine, Styrene, Toluene, NDMA, Xylenes (m,o,p), Anthracene, fluoranthene, Phenanthrene, pyrene, ethyl hexyl phthalate (BEHP), Benzothiazole, Napthalene, Tetrachloroethylene, Trichloroethylene, Ethyl Benzene, Di-n-butylphthalate.

Some but not all of these were also found in the St. Jacobs distribution system. This is not unexpected as the two systems were joined at the time. Also a few chemicals on this list were found in "Trace" quantities. Essentially that means they were positively identified however their actual concentration was difficult to quantify because it was very low.

A couple of significant points need to be remembered. There were many complaints during the early and mid 80's about the taste and odour of Elmira tap water. In hindsight despite assurrances from authorities, the water was polluted. Secondly nobody, nowhere can quantify the health risk and or damage sufferred by Elmira citizens due to this contaminated water. There is no scientific way to quantify the health risks with multiple industrial chemicals in the drinking water. Also Eco Logic flat out stated there is also no way to know how long NDMA was in Elmira's drinking water, both above and below the current, very low drinking water standard for it (.009 parts per billion).

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