As noted in yesterday’s blog, West Elgin’s mayor warned against complacency after discovering incompetence and deceit in his municipality’s water distribution system. The longstanding problems, he pointed out, had not been picked up by provincial regulators. Indeed, the environment ministry had produced glowing reports on the system. “You get complacent,” the mayor admitted, “thinking you’re doing a wonderful job…. We can’t be complacent.”
Ontario Environment Minister Jim Bradley should heed the mayor’s warning. Mr. Bradley’s Annual Report on Drinking Water / 2012, released just before Christmas, oozes complacency.
The minister’s introductory message sets the tone. Anytime they turn on a tap, Mr. Bradley writes, Ontarians are getting the safe drinking water they deserve. Our well-trained, knowledgeable system owners and operators, he continues, have been doing a tremendous job. Later in the report come self-congratulatory references to Ontario being a world leader and having a world-class safety net. Still later come references to the Drinking Water Inspector’s rosy assessment of the province’s drinking water.
But as I have noted before – most recently, in Ontario’s drinking water: Should you really be confident? – the minister’s “great pride” may be unwarranted. More than a third of Ontario’s municipal systems failed at least one water quality test in the last year. More than a third failed to obtain perfect facility inspection ratings. And almost 60 percent experienced “adverse water quality incidents.”
Such facts underline the warning from West Elgin’s mayor: We can’t be complacent.