GRS October 2011 Notes by lDHb86


									                                      Gay’s River Spring
                           A Public Meeting and Information Session
                              Carroll’s Corner Community Centre
                               9 Milford Road, Carroll’s Corner
                                  October 3, 2011, 6:30 p.m.
                                       Meeting Minutes

Gary Burrill opened the meeting with a welcome to all present and to say that he felt that the
water quality was an important matter. The Gay’s River spring water was important from a
historical perspective as drawing water from that spring was a traditional way of getting water
for many communities surrounding it. It is also important given that the area has a geological
formation made up of limestone, gypsum, and other minerals that make having good quality
drinking water a challenge for most. The purpose of the meeting was to provide as much good
information as possible about the spring water and to hear the concerns of residents. Gary stated
that there is great concern and there is information available and the meeting was to bring the
information to those with concerns. “We are bringing all the information that can be brought to

Gary proceeded to lay out the agenda and to introduce the panel:

Paula Putnam, A/District Manager, Nova Scotia Environment, Environmental Monitoring and
Compliance Division, Northern Region,

Jennifer McDonald, Hydrogeologist, Nova Scotia Environment, Environmental Monitoring and
Compliance Division, Northern Region,

Dr. Robin Taylor, Medical Officer of Health, Colchester-East Hants, Cumberland and Pictou
County Health Authorities.

Also present: Mike Cooper, District 4 Councillor, Municipality of the County of Colchester,
Pam MacInnis, District 4 Councillor, Municipality of East Hants, and Pam Osborne, Councillor,
Town of Stewiacke.

The Open House included a slide show presentation by Paula Putnam, Jennifer McDonald and
Dr. Robin Taylor, followed by a question period.

Paula Putman introduced herself and gave a bit of an overview of the role of the Department’s
Environmental Monitoring and Compliance Division. The Department had been contacted by
Gary’s office for information on the Gay’s River Spring and to ensure the accuracy of the
information provided, the Department collected water samples from the spring. In addition, she
wanted the information spread throughout the community. To that end, Nova Scotia
Environment issued a press release at the end of August.
Results of the water samples from the spring showed elevated levels of nitrates, some being
above 10mg/L, which is the health related acceptable limit. The levels of nitrates have fluctuated
through the years, as seen from the data ranging from the years 1999-2011. Nitrates are naturally
occurring, but can also be found from other sources, such as organic or chemical fertilizer.
Nitrate concentrations above 10 mg/L can pose a health risk to infants.

Water samples were also collected for bacteria, total coliform and E.coli. Bacteria tests typically
show the presence or absence of bacteria, as there is no acceptable level for total coliform or
E.coli in drinking water.

Of the samples collected at the Gay’s River Spring, 64% came back positive for total coliform
bacteria, and 4% came back with E. coli. Total coliform bacteria can indicate there may be other
harmful pathogens present in the water. E.coli indicates recent fecal contamination. Total
coliform and E.coli can cause gastro-intestinal issues. Boiling the water may eliminate the
bacteria; however, boiling will concentrate the nitrates.

Jennifer talked about spring water in general terms. The Department does not routinely test or
monitor roadside springs. She stated how important it was that the community does not use the
Gay’s River Spring water as it is not safe for human consumption. She talked about studies in
1999 and repeated in 2008 that sampled 100 roadside springs across the province and 90% tested
positive for bacteria and 20% tested positive for E. coli.

She has received questions about the water source in Lower Truro and she stated that it is not a
spring, but rather an artesian well. This well was constructed according to regulations and is
designed to prevent surface water from entering the well. The well in Lower Truro is treated and
regularly tested by the Muncipality. The Gay’s River Spring is not the same as there is not a way
to prevent surface water from seeping in. The Gay’s River Spring will always be open to
Safe water supplies include local municipal systems, private or public wells that are regularly
tested and meet Canadian Drinking Water Quality Guidelines. Nova Scotia Environment
regulates the construction of private wells, municipal water supplies and registered public
drinking water supplies. Jennifer reiterated that she advises the public to “not drink the water.”
She wanted everyone to have the information they needed to make an informed decision. She
also asked for cooperation to keep the current sign in place for the future.

Dr. Taylor stated her role was to work together with the community to keep everyone healthy.
She noted that clean drinking water is essential for good health. She realizes that the springs
usually create a picture of crystal clear water that has been etched in our minds by the bottled
water companies. However, roadside springs are not safe from a public health view.

For water to be safe it must meet the following three criteria:
     1. be from a protected water source
     2. routinely monitor the source and treat as required
     3. protected distribution system

          Safe Drinking Water needs

     A protected                                Routine
     water                                      monitoring and
     source                                     treatment

                           A protected

The Gay’s River Spring does not fit the criteria as the source is unknown. The source is not
protected; the water is not monitored, treated, or properly distributed. Therefore, the water is not
safe to drink.
         What is in the water that can
                make us sick?

    • Chemicals
    • “Bugs”

    • Many chemicals are occur naturally in
      the environment
    • Some are added into the environment
      by landfills, fertilizers, fuel spills, etc.
    • Some are safe below a certain level
    • Some chemicals should never be in
      drinking water at any level.

Dr. Taylor assured people that there was no one source of nitrates and they are not apparent
without testing as they do not have any odor or taste.

She stressed that they are a problem for babies under the age of six months, and for pregnant
mothers. In newborns, nitrates stop blood from carrying enough oxygen which can harm the
child. At high levels, nitrates possibly cause miscarriages or birth defects in pregnant women.
The rest of the population may be at higher risk for some types of cancer because of long-term
nitrate exposure, but it is a long-term process.

There are many types of bacteria that can be found in water and the standard drinking water tests
only look at certain ones as they indicate there is a possibility of other bugs being present that are
harmful. E.coli is only found in intestines and come from fecal matter: poop in the water. The
presence of E.coli really concerns Dr. Taylor. There could be parasites present that we don’t test
for that may lead to “beaver fever” or other disorders. Stomach bugs cause a range of health
issues, some quite serious.

Dr. Taylor asked if anyone experienced “the runs” and if so, it could be a result of the water they
drank. Different people have varying levels of tolerance to the bugs as some people have guts of
steel and others are delicate. She went on to say that she is glad no one has become seriously ill
as a result, and hopes that no one will in the future. Dr. Taylor stressed Paula’s statement that
boiling the water is not an effective means of making the water safe, but rather, boiling
concentrates the chemicals such as nitrates.

Dr. Taylor then reviewed the process of testing water by stating that water could be tested,
however, the other two criteria have not been satisfied (source and distribution). The tests take
24 hours to get results and during that time something may have contaminated the water and you
would not know. So assuming the water is safe is not good.

What can be done about water for people in the area? Some of those who use the spring have
access to municipal water sources. While the taste may not be pleasing, it is safe to consume. To
get rid of the smell and chlorine taste, water can be left to sit in the fridge overnight or filtered
with systems such as the Brita. Water can be purchased through a retail outlet or have it
delivered for about $200/year for an average family. Homeowners in the Town of Truro pay
about $300/year for safe water.

Dr. Taylor suggested that the local communities have the best answers for local issues and Public
Health would be happy to help with the process.

Gary opened the floor for questions and the following is a review of those questions and
responses from the officials:

A person asked why bacteria levels were okay before this round of testing.

Paula responded by saying that test results from 1995, 1996, 1997 and 2011 indicated there was
also bacteria present at times.

A person asked if it is possible another event caused a major effect on the spring to ruin it this

Paula responded that previous tests showed there was a problem with the water before this
summer. So why did we test it this summer? Our department was approached by the MLA for
information and we wanted to ensure we had correct information on the water quality of the
Gays River Spring. The water is a health risk for every person in the community who uses the
Gays River Spring for drinking water. And since the risk was there, our Department issued a
press release as we felt the people who used the water needed that information.

Another person asked why it took 39 days to issue the release.

Paula stated that roadside springs are not regulated. They are not safe or reliable and the
department does not recommend the spring be used for drinking water.

The person replied that the reason is the Department of Environment did not do their job. Two
complaints were filed about biosolids that leach out over the spring which could be the cause of
the water pollution. There are 25 pages of regulations and CFIA do not regulate biosolids if they
are given away for free. The spring is contaminated because the department did not do their job.

Paula stated that the biosolids could be a source of nitrates, but there are many other sources as
well. Nitrates can also come from manure and chemical fertilizers. Nitrates were present in the
spring prior to biosolids being applied in the area. The department does regulate biosolids and
does respond to each complaint. The department did inspect the property where the biosoilds
were placed and reviewed the application and storage of them. The department is still not sure
where the nitrates came from but they strongly state that roadside springs are not safe sources of
drinking water.

A woman offered that in 1990 her son was six months old and was having gastrointestinal
problems and the doctor recommended that she stop using the spring water in his formula. She
did and his problems stopped within hours. Her family always purchases water now.

Dr. Taylor wants to make sure everyone knows not to drink the water and especially not to give
it to babies. When there are high levels of nitrates in the water, it is especially a problem for
babies under the age of six months. Babies get sick and can turn blue as the nitrate stops them
from carrying enough oxygen in their blood. The bugs present can also make babies really sick,
and the water needs to be boiled to kill the bugs, but cannot be boiled because the nitrates will
become concentrated. The water is not safe to drink.

Another person thanked the officials for the opportunity to hear the information they provided.
He stated that it is expensive to have wells tested and wondered if the government could make
testing cheaper. He also enquired if it is safe to brush your teeth with the spring water, or use it
to do the dishes.

Gary said that he recognized it was expensive to do testing and he would find out more
information about the cost and what the government could possibly do to help reduce the cost for

Dr. Taylor replied that it would be safe to wash a car with the water, but not to use it to brush
your teeth, make ice cubes, wash fruits and vegetables, or do anything that the water could get
into your body.
Paula offered the fact that there is a list of certified well drillers that she could provide anyone
wishing it. However, the department does not regulate private water supplies. She also told the
group that once the well is constructed that it should be tested on a regular basis. It should be
tested for bacteria every six months and every two years for other chemicals. The government
website provides a list of places that test water and the prices. Again, testing private wells is the
responsibility of the homeowner.

A woman stated that she had moved to the area in 2003 and was told that the spring was a great
source of water. She wanted to know why there were no signs posted earlier for the public to be
told that the water was not safe, particularly for the new people in the area.

Paula responded that the department had in fact posted signs in the past but the signs had always
been removed. There is a currently a sign posted by the government and Paula asked that people
leave it in place. She stressed the importance of that as the new people may not be aware of the
risks and new residents to the area may even have infants.

Someone asked why it took 40 days to have the sign posted that stated the water was not safe.

Paula reminded the group that signs had been posted in the past and that the department does not
post signs on every lake, pond, etc. Nova Scotia does not support the use of roadside springs as a
safe drinking water supply.

The next woman stated that she had been sick for two weeks before the news broke about the
condition of the water in the spring. She has informed many people to not drink the water. She is
worried what would happen to those who had been drinking it. She was upset that there was no
sign posted earlier.

Dr. Taylor reassured her that she understood her worry, but that if you don’t have the runs now
and haven’t drunk the water for more than a month, you should be fine. High nitrates, over level
10, can cause problems immediately for small babies and pregnant women, and for the rest of us,
over a lifetime of drinking water with high nitrate levels. The water is not safe but there is no
immediate danger if you have stopped drinking it.

A man suggested that 20-25 years ago there was a boil order for Dartmouth and he took some
water in to work from the spring. He stated that half of the “city boys” got sick from the water.

Dr. Taylor mentioned that the water source in Lower Truro was safe as the source is known and
protected, the water is regularly tested, and it is UV-treated.

Another gentleman asked how to prevent a farm from spreading biosolids.

Paula spoke to this. She noted that biosolids have been in the news a lot lately and suggested that
wastewater treatment has improved vastly. However, biosolids have to be dealt with and there
are guidelines, Guidelines for Land Application and Storage of Municipal Biosolids in NS, in
place which ensure that they are handled properly.
A man suggested that biosolids can be used in the production of electricity. He asked for the
water test results and was told that he needed a freedom of information request to acquire them.
He asked if the farmer had a nutrient management plan. He suggested that most testing doesn’t
include nitrates. The farmer had used cow manure in 2006 on the field and he questioned if the
plan had taken in the slope of the land, the type of soil, and the spring below.

Paula responded that she had not seen the plan herself. But she was sure there was a plan. The
department does not regulate farms; however, the department regulates the land application of
biosolids. The farmer would want what was best for his production and therefore it would take
all that into consideration. Biosolids would be included in a nutrient management plan.

The question was posed if rain has anything to do with the concentration of nitrates.

Nitrate concentrations may vary with the time of year. Nitrate concentrations can also be affected
by rain (precipitation).

The next person asked what would be next since the land had been turned into a wasteland as it
was contaminated by the mine and gypsum mine. He felt that the government should protect the

Jennifer responded that it was up to individuals to test their own wells.

Dr. Taylor said that water could be tested for lead in pipes.

A person asked if there was any plan to create a safe water source for the community.

Gary stated that the municipality is responsible to regulate water supplies.

The next person asked if there were any funds to have test wells around the spring.

Councillor Mike Cooper agreed that the water was not safe to drink and something had to be
done. He agreed with Dr. Taylor that the community was the best to decide what that was and he
would help Public Health and the county figure it out.

The next person asked if it was possible to have some kind of restraint on the use of biosolids. He
suggested that their political representatives should put a stop to the spreading of biosolids.

Gary agreed with the speaker that it was in order for anyone to express their opinion to their
provincial representative.

A man stated that he had the water tested many times over the years and the results were perfect.
He actually had the water tested a couple of days after the new release was released. His test did
show high nitrates, but everything else was perfect. He stated he was 82 years old and is still
drinking the water. He also suggested that the runs may be caused by other things. He noted that
he saw a sign in 1976. He also suggested that we take risks by driving, smoking, etc., and the
water from the spring was just a small issue in the larger picture. He asked if it was possible to
have more details of results of testing posted on a sign at the spring.

Dr. Taylor reminded people that from the Public Heath point of view, the water is not safe to
drink as the three things are not present at the spring: source not protected, water not treated, and
the distribution system not regulated. Testing can give a false sense of security as the test can
show there is nothing wrong but an incident can occur just after the test was taken and the water
could be rendered unsafe but the test would not show that.

A dairy farmer identified himself and stated that he had been operating his farm without
pesticides. He does not see the need for biosolids in this area.

A man suggested that the government had put the pipe in the spring in the first place. Why did
they not follow standards?

Jennifer replied that she did not know the history of the spring but was sure that it would have
been prior to any act or rule. She had looked at pictures of the spring over the years and noted
that the pipe had changed over the years.

That was the end of the questions and Gary wound up the meeting by thanking the Carroll’s
Corner Community Centre Board of Directors for making the time available for the meeting. He
thanked the other officials and everyone for taking part in the democratic process.

Wendy Robinson
Recording Secretary

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