water not cheap either
By Debora Van Brenk
London Free Press
Water, water everywhere . . . and mega-bucks to make it
drinkable. Area municipalities and their taxpayers face
multimillion-dollar well and pipeline projects to meet residents'
demands and fulfil new provincial rules for more and better
And it's one of several issues that highlight, again,
how urban and rural -- not just French and English --
represent Canada's other two solitudes.
Londoners turn on their taps and, for the most part,
assume the water is just fine.
That's a luxury those living on private wells or on small
regional water systems don't enjoy.
Nitrates, E. coli and sediment all have become household
words in an area once known for pristine lakes, streams
But the problem isn't just questionably safe water. It's
also low quantities as several dry seasons have left well
- South Huron has just decided to improve the supply
to Exeter and area by connecting with the Lake Huron pipeline
for nearly $12 million.
Council there rejected an option to spend $7 million
to upgrade existing wells and drill new ones because that
would have left the area short of water in 20 years. With
little help from the province to pay for the project,
residents' water bills are expected to increase significantly.
- Hensall and Seaforth also are considering piggybacking
onto the pipeline, now that South Huron has made its decision.
- Strathroy-Caradoc Mayor Mel Veale has said a pipeline
hookup to Lake Huron is one of his big priorities this
year. The connection, expected to start in mid-2004, would
mean Strathroy-Caradoc could avoid an expensive series
of groundwater well improvements. Neighbouring municipalities
also have expressed interest in connecting to the system.
- Wardsville, most of which has been under a boil-water
advisory for three years, is partly done its link to better
water through a pipeline to Lake Erie, with mixed reaction
from residents to the improvements so far.
But not everyone is convinced pipelines -- even with
intake pipes several kilometres from shoreline and with
purification plants -- are the answer.
Well drillers say Great Lakes water is only as healthy
as what flows into it -- a view reinforced by recent tests
that found animal contaminants in streams and drew national
Mike McElhone of the Ashfield Colborne Lakefront Association
called it "a very substantial problem" that's
affecting health and tourism in the area.
The fact water safety is barely on the radar of city
people is just one example of a growing gap between urban
and rural concerns.
Toronto residents, for example, cited the SARS scare
as the top story of 2003.
Rural communities likely would cite the closing of international
borders to Canadian beef after the discovery of mad-cow
disease in an Alberta cow.
The uncertainty surrounding the discovery of the disease
in a Washington state Holstein will cloud 2004 for farms
and small towns alike.
Meanwhile, conservationists shudder to think what might
happen if an upcoming cull of ash trees along the westernmost
Chatham-Kent border fails to halt an advancing army of
emerald ash borers. That zone is widely believed to be
the bugs' portal to the rest of the province.
Finally, expect to see in 2004 a concerted effort by
rural parents to persuade education boards that their
local schools are worth saving in the long term, even
in the face of declining enrolments.
These issues may be barely perceptible if you live in
a city subdivision.
But you may want to give more than a passing thought
to whether they're all just someone else's problems when
next you drive by your neighbourhood school, turn on your
kitchen tap or admire your backyard oasis while cooking
a steak on the barbecue.