In response to the Walkerton Inquiry, the Ontario government enacted the Clean Water Act [CWA] in 2006 to protect existing and future drinking water sources throughout the province. The CWA establishes forty Source Protection Areas grouped into eleven Source Protection Regions.
One such region is the Trent Conservation Coalition Source Protection Region [the Trent Region] which consists of five source protection areas: Kawartha-Haliburton, Crowe Valley, Ontonabee-Peterborough, Lower Trent, and Ganaraska. The Trent Region includes the Trent and Ganaraska River watersheds consisting of several freshwater lakes, rivers and tributaries. It spans a total of 14500 square
kilometres, from Algonquin Park to the north shore of Lake Ontario and the Bay of Quinte.
Since 2001, LOW has worked with local residents in the Trent and Ganaraska watersheds to help identify and respond to threats to water sources. Several major pollution sources are present in the Trent Region. Quarry operations in the region, such as Holcim Aggregate’s cement operation in Colborne, can have a negative impact on groundwater quality and supply. The recent discovery of coal tar from a historic source seeping into the Otonabee River in Peterborough, a tributary of the Trent River, is an example of the impact of historical sources on current water quality. Historical contamination from nuclear operations is also evident throughout the area, and the nuclear industry continues to be one of the most significant industrial polluters in Port Hope and in other parts of the Trent Region.
A Source Protection Committee [Committee] was formed in November 2007 to create a Plan for the Trent Region. The Committee submitted Terms of Reference [TOR] for each area in the Region to the Ministry of the Environment [the Ministry] in 2009. Following Ministry approval of the TORs, the Committee developed two Draft Assessment Reports, one for the Ganaraska Region and one for the other four areas in the Trent Region.
The Source Protection Plan for Trent and Ganaraska has the potential to be an important new tool for environmental protection in the region. However, without clear, accessible, and detailed data on all potential drinking water threats in the regions, including specific information about protecting Lake Ontario from historic, current, and future sources of contaminant, the effectiveness of this tool will be limited. Further, unless the Committee uses its authority to expand the list of threats to include those specific to the region, the Plan will not be an effective tool to protect local communities.
Lake Ontario Waterkeeper submitted comments on July 9, 2010, recommending that the Committee:
Provide detailed information in the Assessment Reports on individual sites considered as potential threats to drinking water.
Provide detailed information for each potential site describing how it was evaluated, including how the precautionary principle was applied to its evaluation.
Provide information regarding the existing environmental laws that will be applied to set standards for the Plan, in the absence of specific targets for Great Lakes water set by the Ministry of the Environment.
You can read our full comments on the Draft Assessment Reports here.