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Twelve years after the Walkerton water disaster, the first source water protection plan under the Clean Water Act, 2006, has been completed and submitted by the Lakehead Source Protection Committee, Thunder Bay.

In May 2000, water contaminated by Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria entered the municipal Drinking Water System of Walkerton, Ontario. Seven people died and thousands of others became ill. As a result, the provincial government convened an inquiry led by Justice Dennis O’Connor. In 2002, Justice O’Connor released two reports, including 93 recommendations.

In response, the Ontario government adopted multiple pieces of legislation, including the Clean Water Act, 2006, which implemented drinking water Source Protection Planning in every watershed in Ontario covered by a Conservation Authority. The Lakehead Source Protection Committee is the first to complete the process.

There are only two Municipal drinking water sources within the committee’s jurisdiction; the Municipality of Oliver Paipoonge Rosslyn Village (groundwater intake) and the City of Thunder Bay (Lake Superior intake).

The Committee identified 32 instances of Significant Drinking Water Threats, as defined by the Clean Water Act, all located in the rural Rosslyn Village Wellhead Protection Area. They include septic systems, livestock grazing, manure handling and road salt. Rosslyn has a population of about 1500. No significant or moderate threats were identified for the City of Thunder Bay or in the adjacent Municipality of Shuniah, which is in close proximity to the Bare Point Water Treatment Facility.

The Source Protection Plan includes a series of policies to protect the Rosslyn water supply. These include a Land Use Planning Policy to prohibit any future waste disposal site, sewage treatment facilities (not including those under 10,000 litres a day), organic solvents and fuel stored for non-residential use, and the storage of pure dense non-aqueous phase liquids (DNAPLs) except incidental volumes for personal, domestic use. These policies will prevail over any contrary Planning Act controls, such as official plans and zoning bylaws. Similar policies are likely to be adopted in other rural water protection zones across the province.

The Specify Action Policy manages the existing significant threat of septic systems under 10,000 litres a day and future significant threats of application handling and storage of road salt, storage of snow and new septic systems under 10,000 litres a day.
The Education and Outreach Policy is designed to educate the residents of WHPA-A on existing and possible future threats on their property. This policy manages all existing agricultural threats and future agricultural threats that could take place on properties that are zoned “rural” and septic systems under 10,000 litres a day. It also advises residents of the harmful effects of DNAPLs to the groundwater resources.

The City of Thunder Bay is also encouraged to develop a Spill Prevention and Contingency Plan and place a buoy at the anchorage line near its water intake pipe at Bare Point.

The Source Protection Plan will come into effect on the date of the posting of the Notice of Approval on the MOE’s Environmental Registry.

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