Thursday, May 14, 2020


Yesterday I reported on a published 1995 study by University of Waterloo groundwater experts initiated by the national attention around the 1989 Elmira Water Crisis. Today I'm going to point out how many drinking water wells have either been shut down, abandoned, altered/amended, continually rotated in and out of production, or diluted by mixing with new wells drilled hundreds of metres away but listed as part of the same wellfield. Yes the Region of Waterloo have taken steps to "fix" our groundwater supplies. Unfortunately they mostly took them about thirty to fifty years too late. Indeed the Region only came into existence in the 1970s but then and now they are merely another level of municipal politician whether from the three large cities or from the four Townships. Also their steps to "fix" things didn't start until after we were into the so-called "turnaround" decade i.e. the 1990s.

I also am going to expand on yesterday's post with new information. Firstly the authors investigated and determined that there were approximately 800 potential industrial sites within Kitchener and Waterloo that have contributed to our chemical laden groundwater. Personally I would have expected perhaps 80 sites but both on page 145 and page 150 they refer to 800 sites. Secondly on page 145 they advise that "...the length of time for surface contamination to reach the aquifer could be as little as ten years." This is restated on page 154 thusly: "The resulting migration pathways indicate that middle aquifer wells may not be provided much protection from the water quality in the upper aquifer by the overlying Maryhill clay till; travel times for a conservative contaminant passing through the clay till are as short as ten years." Finally page 159 also discusses this lack of natural protection of our drinking water aquifers thusly: "The sand core of the Waterloo Moraine being a near surface unit with only a patchy, discontinuous surface till cover (Maryhill and Tavestock tills) is particularly vulnerable to contamination, since this sand is the principal aquifer in the area of the moraine."

The authors make a suggestion (in 1995) that I've have long understood to be true and that is that there is a contaminant plume leaving the old Ottawa St. Landfill site now known euphemistically as the Sid McLennan ski hill. I believe that years ago there was a reference in the K-W Record to 1,4 dioxane having to receive special treatment in the Greenbrook Wellfield. I believed at the time that that was courtesy of Varnicolor Chemical in Elmira using that dump...oops sorry "engineered landfill" for drums filled with used solvents etc. Some older readers may recall the mini scandal in the very early 1990s when I exposed the lax enforcement at the Region's dumps/landfills allowing liquid toxic wastes to continue being illegally dumped in them. Other industrial chemicals found in the Greenbrook Wellfield in the 1990s include benzene, ethyl benzene, tetrachloroethylene, toluene and xylene. These are all common solvents found at Uniroyal Chemical, Varnicolor and probably hundreds of other industries. Hey if dumping on your own property is forbidden and there is cheap (albeit illegal) disposal at Erb St. (Waterloo) or Ottawa St. (Kitchener) then have at it. Varnicolor used to send an employee down with a bottle of booze to lubricate the entry of their drums.

This 1995 report focuses on one Waterloo Wellfield (William St. wells) and three Kitchener Wellfields namely the Strange St. wells, the Parkway wells and the Greenbrook wells. The William St. wells in 1995 consisted of wells W-1B, W-1C, W-2 and W-3. The same wells are in use today albeit with major shutdowns and major management namely "Wells W-1B and W-2 were offline for 12 weeks, Well 1-C was offline for 18 weeks in 2019, Well W-3 was offline for all of 2019. William St Well Supply was offline for 14 weeks in 2019." These shutdowns and quote are from the recently released Region of Waterloo Annual (Water) Report for the William St. wells. Trichloroethylene was (1995) and still (2019) is a problem in these wells.

The Strange St. Wellfield in 1995 consisted of wells K-10, K-11, K-12, K-13, K-14, K-17 and K-18. Technically the only remaining wells from this wellfield today are wells K-13 and K-18. That isn't the whole picture however. In fact the Strange St. Wellfield today consists of wells K-10A, K-11A, K-13, K-18 and K-19. Well sort of. K-13 and K-18 are listed as current wells although they and well K-19 were shut down entirely last year (2019). The renamed K-10A, K-11A likely were either drilled beside the former wells (K-10 & K-11) or they were drilled deeper with a sleeve preventing inflow from the contaminated part of the aquifer. Regardless well K-10 A was offline for 15 weeks and well K-11A was offline for 9 weeks in 2019. Contamination spreads both laterally and vertically and hangs around for a very long time. A number of contaminants in 1995 (benzene, ethyl benzene, tetrachloroethylene, toluene and xylene) through shutdowns and other management practices did not appear in 2019 testing.

The Parkway Wellfield in 1995 consisted of wells K-31, K-32, K-33, K-34 and K-36. Currently those same wells are still in production. The last two were shut down for five weeks in 2019. Trichloroethylene, a DNAPL chemical, is still found in low concentrations in wells K-31, K-32 and K-33 as it was in 1995.

Lastly we have the Greenbrook wells which were mentioned in paragraph three. In 1995 that Wellfield consisted of wells K-1, K-2, K-3, K-4, K-5, K-6 and K-8. Technically the only remaining well today is well K-8 however wells K-1A, K-2A, K4-B and K-5A are now part of the Wellfield in 2019. Similar to the Strange St. Wellfield I understand that these renamed wells occurred after rehabilitation of the old contaminated wells occurred likely by the same methods i.e. relocating a few feet away or by drilling deeper to avoid old contamination.

In the title I mention "...For The Financial Benefit Of The Few". Which few? How about the owners of the polluting companies who instead of absorbing the full costs of the production of their products which includes proper and safe waste disposal, instead chose to dump either on their own properties or into the nearest surface water body. They externalized their costs onto the environment and onto the rest of their fellow citizens health and well being. The question is why have successive generations of politicians and bureaucrats allegedly working for our benefit (the public) continually hidden or minimized the negative effects of this anti-social behaviour upon our drinking water and our health? Is it guilt? Our governments failed to protect us from 1850 until at least 2000 from polluters and they continue to coverup for them even today.

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