Water quality meeting focuses
By Matt Shurrie
CLINTON - Realizing water quality adversely affects everyone,
interested parties agreed here last week to continue meeting
on the issue during a day-long discussion hosted by the
Huron County Health Unit.
Representatives from the health unit and a number of organizations
including cottage associations, farm groups, members of
the tourist industry, environmentalists and municipal
leaders spent Nov. 28 looking at how water quality is
currently measured and what they might do collectively
to improve testing results along Lake Huron in the months
and years to come.
" Everyone at this table has a study," Huron
County Warden Dave Urlin said. "We need to sit down
and put the studies together and come up with a solution."
While Urlinís statement certainly seemed to sum up the
sentiment of the day it was Bluewater Shoreline Residents
Association (BSRA) past president Bob Campbellís comments
that made plenty of sense when he suggested the group
look at the water quality issue through a wide angle lens
as they move forward.
" This is not as complicated as we make it out to
be," Campbell said. "We need to zero in on the
issues and the next step should be zeroing in on those
areas. We could spend 10 more years on looking at wind
direction or we can just point the finger at ourselves.
I think thatís a better idea."
Originally planned as a session to update stakeholders
on how the health unitís water quality sampling process
had been undertaken over the summer, recent national headlines
calling Lake Huron a polluted mess sparked renewed interest.
In fact, the meeting attracted close to 25 panellists
and another 35 interested audience members.
After the morning session was spent outlining changes
to water sampling with the health unitís Penny Nelligan
and Pam Scarfe explaining the sampling process, any misconceptions
that beaches along the shoreline have been closed - a
common error found in national stories - were quickly
While itís true that seven beaches are permanently posted
- five along Lake Huron and two dams in Exeter and Wingham
- the health unit made the decision to permanently post
beaches in order to increase the amount of sampling at
beaches deemed unstable.
" We are posting a warning - not closing the beaches,"
Scharfe said during her presentation.
University of Guelph scientists Michael Brodsky and Shu
Chen also attended the session and explained the methods
of sampling and the scientific background of E.coli.
" We all realize that over the last 150 years weíre
all part of the problem," Urlin said during an open
session amongst panellists. "However, we can all
be part of the solution too and Iíd like to see a committee
come out of this. Iím tired of pointing fingers at each
other. Itís not whoís at fault because weíre all at fault
and we have to work with provincial and federal governments
to find a solution."
Ontario Ministry of the Environment representative Ron
Bennett said there are three potential polluters contributing
to Lake Huronís problems including cottagers, farmers
and municipalities. However, he said itís important to
realize that this problem has been ongoing for many years.
" Are we dealing with a new problem?" Bennett
asked. "No. Weíre dealing with more people and a
more educated public and the need for more information.
I donít think that thereís any question that people want
to do something."
Goderich Mayor Deb Shewfelt, who also serves as chair
of Huron Countyís board of health, said Goderich continues
to work on an extensive program to separate sewers and
water systems. To date the town has invested millions
of dollars to ensure that 98 per cent of all systems have
" We look forward to spending money to go further,"
Shewfelt said. "We know weíve been part of the problem
but hopefully weíll be part of the future."
While the overall tone of the meeting was positive and
one that looked ahead to find a solution, there clearly
were times when the discussion became heated. Late in
the meeting both the agriculture and tourism sectors clashed
when farmers were accused of not doing more to help find
" We donít have a good feeling," said one bed
and breakfast owner from the audience. "We donít
want bad players."
Shewfelt interrupted saying itís time for Huron County
and the health unit in particular to step up and take
a leadership role in developing a model for the future.
" Itís time to pull a group together and time to
try and come in with some solutions," Shewfelt said.
"Right now weíre all shooting off in different directions
but Iím pleased with what Iíve seen here."
While no date for future meetings were announced it is
expected the health unit will host a similar meeting sometime