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Great Lakes Article:

Bluewater Group Employs Scientist Garry Palmateer
Lakeshore Advance
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 provincial requirement.

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."


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