Ontario’s drinking water: the problems persist

August 20, 2009

Every year, Ontario’s Chief Drinking Water Inspector produces a report on the province’s water systems. The current report (for April 2007 – March 2008) came out in June. Despite the Inspector’s assurances to the contrary, the report includes much to be concerned about.

Water Quality Test Results

The province received microbiological test results from 688 municipal residential drinking water systems. An astonishing 199 systems exceeded microbiological parameters during the year. Of these, 94 did so on multiple occasions. In addition, 83 systems exceeded chemical parameters, such as those for lead, trihalomethanes, fluoride, selenium, nitrogen/nitrates/nitrites, and bromate. Of these systems, 67 exceeded the parameters a number of times.

The province also received test results from smaller systems, such as those serving schools, camps, and hospitals. Two-hundred-thirty-four such systems exceeded microbiological or chemical parameters. Another 109 non-municipal year-round residential systems exceeded these parameters.

The Inspector played down adverse water quality test results. He emphasized instead that 99.85 percent of the tests from municipal residential drinking water systems met provincial standards, and that only 0.15 percent of the tests exceeded the standards. Such results, he said, “can reinforce the public’s confidence in the quality of their municipal drinking water.” The facts, as presented in his own report, suggest otherwise.

System Inspection Results

The province inspected 697 municipal residential drinking water systems during the year. Just 349 systems met all provincial requirements and achieved inspection ratings of 100 percent. Another 315 systems received ratings of 90-100 percent, while 30 received ratings of 80-90 percent, and five received ratings below that. Approximately 44 percent of the ratings improved from the previous year (when just 281 systems met all provincial requirements), 28 percent remained unchanged, and 28 percent got worse.

Inspectors identified a number of problems, including improper sizing and improper installation of equipment; inadequate sampling and reporting; unsatisfactory operations and maintenance manuals; and unacceptable flow rates.

During the year, the province issued contravention orders to 14 municipal residential drinking water systems and 46 other systems.

No wonder so many people choose to drink bottled water!


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