Bluewater Group Employs Scientist Garry
By Ben Forrest
Published June 30th, 2004
ST. JOSEPH SHORES – Garry Palmateer, a scientist who
led the government investigation into the Walkerton tragedy,
has been employed by the Bluewater Shoreline Residents'
Association (BSRA) to conduct water testing in the St.
Joseph area this summer.
A former government employee, Palmateer was present Thursday
at a shoreline home for an information session in which
he explained the types of experiments he plans to oversee
in the area, and the philosophy behind them. The session
was populated mainly by BSRA members, but representatives
of the Huron County Health Unit and the Huron County planning
department also attended.
The testing Palmateer plans to do is made possible by
a $15,000 grant given the BSRA by the Municipality of
Bluewater. As reported earlier this year in the Lakeshore
Advance, the BSRA claims testing of beach and ravine water
in the area has consistently exceeded the provincial standard
of 100 E. coli per 100 mL of water. Data supplied by the
BSRA shows that samples collected on June 15 contained
counts as high as 3600--below the standards of some European
countries but far above the national and aforemen tioned
Palmateer says the risks of contracting illness or getting
infections in open wounds is present even if the count
is lower than 100, he said, but even at 200, the dangers
are low. He likened the hazard to that of using utensils
at a restaurant--one hopes they have been washed properly
but can't be sure. He also says that he was part of a
committee that introduced the 100 count as the provincial
standard, and that the number is somewhat "arbitrary."
In order to identify the sources of pollution, (agricultural
runoff and faulty septic systems are among the suspected
contributors), a ravine in the St. Joseph area has been
selected for a pilot project. The BSRA hopes that the
data Palmateer finds will help them find solutions to
a problem they say has existed for years. Crucial to the
success of the project will be receiving permission from
residents to test their septic systems. The BSRA will
likely seek that consent, on the condition of anonymity.
One BSRA member stressed at the meeting that they're
not out to put anyone out of business--only to gain more
information to aid in finding a solution to a long-standing
issue. "There's no one guilty party," said Second
Vice President Melodie Northey. She sees the current situation
rather as the culmination of countless actions over many
years. "We're not pointing fingers," she stressed.
"We just want to correct it."