Monthly Archives: December 2016

Wynne wants debate on bottled water?

bottOntario charges $3.71 per million litres of water taken by water bottlers , on top of a$750 fee for water taken in low to medium risk areas. Wynne wants to increase the charges to water bottlers in the new year. In addition to the fee increases she wants to open up a much larger dialogue on the future of the entire water bottling industry.

Premier Wynne feels raising the fees is not enough, we need to look at the whole water bottling industry, and culture it has,  given that most of us don’t really need bottled water. She wants to look at the industry as a whole, and the governments role in regulating it. There are times when bottled water is necessary due to pipe issues or other problems.plastic bottles

The Wellington Water Watchers, a group of water environmentalists in the Guelph area, agree with the price increase, but note that any price hike would not be enough as the profits are so high…and other water use concerns are not addressed.

Water bottling companies have aggressively been marketing healthy bottled water for over 20yrs. The government will have to take back the high ground and promote the safety of tap water. The province must educate the public of the smaller environmental footprint , drinking tap water is good, and bring a reusable bottle with you.

Premier Wynne has imposed a 2 yr moratorium on new permits or expanding operations. Changes to water permits would be limiting to periods of 1-5 yrs, down from a maximum of 10yrs, requirements that the companies weekly report how much water they took vs how much they are allowed to take, and stronger scientific requirements…studies done on the environmental impacts.



Water Watchers Chair Mike Nagy says”..climate change , droughts, carbon emissions, are all tied to this wasteful industry. It should be part of that holistic discussion about people not just rejecting products that are wasteful, but also reconnecting on a personnel level with their water….”

For their part the Canadian Bottled Water Association says that by making it more expensive for the bottlers , it will only be making it more expensive for the public who buy the bottled water product.

I must admit that in looking at what it costs to get the water vs the cost at the store some one is making big money….and then there is the waste plastic that has to be dealt with.

Smiths Falls Water Contamination

fire-1A local flea market near Smiths Falls , Ontario has burned to the ground. A water contamination crisis has erupted from the loss, and the province is still not sure about the size of the affected area.                                                                 The Rideau Valley Marketplace burned down Nov.6th, even after the best efforts of the local fire department. Shortly thereafter the local residents could see foam in their water, and it had a strong chemical smell. Health authorities immediately put out a no drinking warning…followed 10 days later with a no contact with the water, even flushing the water has been prohibited as it is possible to inhale the water droplets stirred up by the flush.

Testing has shown that the use of a fire retardant foam and 80 truckloads of water led to a toxic chemical brew seeping into the local water supply. Last Friday a meeting was held for the residents to meet with officials from the Ministry of the Environment, and local medical officials and politicians. Further testing has shown the contaminated water is moving around in the ground and bedrock. Due to the local conditions the scope of the contaminated area still has to be determined. A clean up firm has been contracted to drill holes and pump out and treat the contaminated water. Monthly testing will allow for monitoring the situation , as well as give time for a long term plan to be devised. fire-2

Meanwhile the local people affected are drinking bottled water , and heated outdoor tanks are supplying water to shower, cook, and clean with. Concerns about the plumbing feeding those affected homes has led to the pipes to be pressure cleaned..but other issues have arisen. For instance at the meeting there was no one to address insurance concerns with regards to ruined dishwashers ,washing machines , and bathtubs that were affected adversely by the toxic water.


Perhaps it is time for some one to come up with a more earth friendly fire retardant…or perhaps just use water.

Contaminated Water Causes Snow Geese Die Off

gooseA snow storm pushed a large flock of snow geese off their migration route seeking refuge in the acidic , metal laden waters of an old open pit mine in Montana. Witnesses described the visual as several acres of white birds on November 28th.

The responsibility for the open Berkeley Pit in Butte belongs to Atlantic Richfield and Montana Resources. An off duty MR employee gave the heads up as he spotted the flock of some 25,000 geese heading toward the pit from 25 miles away. Typically, Butte gets between 2000-5000 flyovers annually, including migration periods. As soon as possible employees used spot lights, noisemakers, and other efforts to scare the birds off the deadly waters. By November 29th more than 90% of the birds had been scared off the water. Despite their best efforts some 7,000 birds died from exposure to the toxic soup.

The Berkeley Pit holds about 175bn litres of water. The death toll is estimated by drones and airplanes flying over. Federal and state agencies are still seeking to confirm the number…which is going to be considerably higher that the 1995 incident when 342 birds died, which prompted the local authorities to have a plan in place. Even with a plan they were swamped with just the shear volume of birds. MR and Arco could face fines if they are found to be non compliant with the bird hazing program.


An investigation is underway to determine what circumstances led to ” this kind of perfect storm”, with thousands of birds making a late migration and then facing a snowstorm , with the Berkeley Pit being the only open water in the area.

There are estimated to be 4-6 million snow geese in North America. Losing several thousand will not put them on the endangered list. A concern would be how many other toxic open water pits are there, and with changing climate conditions will migrating flocks adjust their routes and end up flying into dangerous waters?

Flooding in London, England

flood1The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, is pointing fingers at Thames Water after 3 London floods. Burst pipes have caused 3 floods in London in a week. Hundreds of people have been evacuated from their homes and businesses in Stoke Newington, Blackheath, and Islington areas. The Mayor says people are furious as lessons are not being learned. Thames Water is launching a full investigation into the floods and try to reduce further disruption. The timing could not be worse for all affected in the run up to the Christmas season. The public and businesses should expect full compensation. flood

To give you an idea what the City of London and Thames Water faces there are 10,000 miles of pipes in London…1700 miles of Victorian Era pipes have been replaced.  The Thames Water company profited 742 million pounds in 15/16, has 15 million customers, and invests 1 billion annually in upgrading the network…but still can’t keep up.


Some of the local business owners accuse Thames Water of incompetence, as the water mains outside his shop were leaking in the week leading up to the flood , yet all the company did was apply a band aid, patching up but not fixing the situation in a permanent way. When the pipe burst outside one shop it took 4-5 hours for crews to stop the flooding waters.



Thames Water does recognize the seriousness of the situation. Permits to close the road at Stoke Newington had been applied for. At Blackheath it did take hours to turn the water off due to the need to not disrupt water service to other businesses.

Although this story comes out of London, here in Ottawa we have seen our own watermain issues in the last few years. In this particular story the detail of having replaced Victorian Era pipes is amazing…given Queen Victoria was born in 1819. As our populations grow and our cities age I am sure we will see more not less of these problems…replacing old pipes is a huge cost. One that city councils probably won’t address in full until it is too late and the water is in the streets.

Ice Swimmers

ice-swimmerPolar bear dip not enough? There is an International Ice Swimmers Association. Swimming in ice is a dangerous sport..they must swim in only a bathing suit, goggles, and a cap with the distance being one kms.

As you get in the water your body temperature starts to drop, the cold takes your breath becomes a matter of controlling your mind with the average time in the water being 15 to 20 minutes.

You can see more at their web site at

Check out this video and see their challenge.