Erin councillors are concerned about the costs of a new system to protect municipal wells, especially in sections of Erin that feed groundwater to Halton wells.
Council had a presentation on May 6 by Kyle Davis, the Risk Management Official hired by Wellington County to serve the needs of Erin and other local municipalities.
He will be meeting soon with Halton officials to discuss two wellhead protection areas along the Halton-Erin Road near Third Line and near Fourth Line.
Property owners in the relatively small “red zones” close to the wells will face restrictions on the uses of their land, to protect against contamination, and the cost of mandatory septic system inspections. Less restrictive yellow zones have also been mapped.
The new protection is part of the Clean Water Act, resulting from the inquiry into fatal well contamination in Walkerton in 2000. Red and yellow zones are also mapped near Town of Erin municipal wells. There are two Hillsburgh wells, one northwest of the village on Trafalgar Road, the other near Victoria Park. Erin village has two active wells near 17 Sideroad and Eighth Line.
Also included is the Bel-Erin well, just south of County Road 124 on the Ninth Line. It is not currently in use, but it has the largest red zone, encompassing more than 100 homes to the south. Residents of 366 properties in the affected zones have been asked to fill out non-mandatory surveys about their lands, but only 16% have responded.
Davis said there are an estimated 288 threats to the water supply, but that number is expected to drop as they are checked. The new regulations could come into effect next year, with municipalities facing the cost of administering inspection, remedial plans and enforcement.
Threats can include fuel and pesticide storage, and the spreading of manure on small farms that have not been required to adopt a Nutrient Management Plan.
Mayor Lou Maieron is concerned that some of the red zones affect rural residents who do not get the benefit of a municipal water supply.
“They would have costs to protect water that they do not use,” he said. “That seems unfair. There has to be a balance.”
Councillor Deb Callaghan is concerned about potential dumping of contaminated fill, saying fill should be prohibited in source protection areas.
Councillor Barb Tocher said it will be important to ensure that any new municipal wells are not sited in areas with existing contamination threats.
Councillor John Brennan said preparation of educational material for the public should start now, while there is some funding help in place.
Davis said the Clean Water Act promotes preventative measures. In cases of verified threats, there will be opportunities to negotiate with property owners about risk management plans and remedial action before any charges would be laid.
More information on the new drinking water protection system is available at www.ctcswp.ca and at the Erin library.