MOE responds to EBI request for Moira River water quality data
by Kenneth E. Jull
August 17, 2001
DELIVERED BY COURIER
Mr. Tom Adams Environmental Bureau of Investigation 225 Brunswick Avenue Toronto, Ontario M5S 2M6
Dear Mr. Adams:
This is to respond to your enquiries made by way of letter to Mr. Ritterdated July 27th, 2001, your voice-mail message left at my office, and in our recent telephone conversation.
You have indicated that your primary concern is with the fact that the Moira River is at historic low levels this summer, and this poses concern with respect to concentrations of arsenic. In fact, most of Southern Ontario is experiencing historic water levels this summer due to unpredicted day conditions this summer. The Ministry of Environment (MOE) is operating the collection and treatment system at Deloro to minimize arsenic loading into the Moira River in order to protect the environment. The details of the operation of this system were explored in the trial. As you know, Justice Dorval found that the MOE was “not guilty” and had exercised due diligence.
You have indicated that you have some contacts in the community, and that some people may want more information about water quality in the abnormally dry summer across Ontario. In light of that, for this one time, the MOE is prepared to provide some raw water quality information and data as it becomes available. As you know, this is a departure from the normal course, in which the information is filed in annual progress reports which are generally available in the spring each year. We want to underline that this release of raw data is exceptional and not meant to create a precedent.
I am advised that Mr. Ritter implemented, at his own initiative, a daily grab sample protocol at the Highway #7/Moira River point where the daily composite sampler is presently located. This protocol was implemented as of July 31st. The MOE can make available the hard copy of the results of the grab samples. We propose to provide you with the following:
- July 2001 weekly grab sample results for Highway #7/Moira River Point.
- August 2001 daily grab sample results at the same point.
With respect to your request for “Daily aggregate sampling data” in your letter of July 27th, we assume that you meant to say daily composite sampling data. The normal course involves retrieving the sampler after a 28 day period, after which the samples are analyzed in the site laboratory. The results are then correlated with the flow data from Environment Canada to produce arsenic loadings which form part of the public record as part of the progress report filed. We see no reason for the MOE to depart from this normal procedure.
As part of the Deloro Mine Site Cleanup Project, the Ministry of the Environment conducted an extensive study of the Moira River system from below the mine site down river to Belleville. The study examined the environmental impact of historical contamination from the abandoned mine site on the Moira River, providing the most detailed, comprehensive analysis of the river system undertaken. The study concluded that there is little or no health concerns for residents and cottagers along the Moira River downstream of the Deloro Mine Site.
However, residents living between the mine and the outlet of Moira Lake should not drink untreated river or lake water. Levels of arsenic in this stretch occasionally exceed Ontario Drinking Water Standards, particularly in summer months, when water levels are lower. If the water is not used for drinking, arsenic is not a concern.
The MOE and the Health Unit have advised property owners south of the site, of water quality issues in a number of ways. This included direct delivery of materials to remote properties.
As part of the Moira River Study, the Ministry of conducted a water use survey. Of the 231 households that responded to the survey, a few indicated they take drinking water directly from the Moira River or one of the lakes. The ministry and the Hastings and Prince Edward Counties Health Unit contacted these individuals to advise them not to use untreated drinking water from the river system.
After further consultation with the Hastings and Prince Edward Counties Health Unit, and local municipal representatives, the ministry issued a reminder to residents not to drink untreated river or lake water. The drinking water reminder letter was sent to all property owners living along the Moira River from below the mine site to the outlet of Moira Lake, and contact information for the ministry and the health unit were provided.
Recognizing that there is a need to continue the drinking water reminder in this area, the ministry and the Health Unit have been working with the local municipalities and the Moira Lake Property Owners Association to ensure this reminder is issued periodically until such time that levels of arsenic in the river and Moira Lake are consistently below Ontario Drinking Water Standards. It was also agreed that the most effective way of keeping residents informed would b to re-issue the reminder annually with the municipal tax bills.
Three drinking water reminders have been issued since 1999.
The MOE is confident that its actions have comprehensively protected the community. Out of an abundance of caution, the MOE would like to eliminate any potential overlap between the MOE communications and your community contacts (as noted in our telephone conversation). Please provide the MOE with a list of all community contacts that you have. This will enable the MOE to compare your list of contacts with theirs, to ensure that there is a comprehensive list. In this way, the MOE can continue to ensure that the appropriate drinking water reminders are disseminated to the widest possible audience.
Mr. Ritter will fax the data to your office as soon as he physically has it in his possession.
Your very truly,
BEARD WINTER LLP
Kenneth E. Jull KEJ/cb
c.c. Mr. Jim Ritter