Bill Sanford of Limehouse has his water tested regularly, but with the newest suggestions of Halton Region Health Department, those with wells are being encouraged to test their water three times a year. Well water information sessions have been scheduled for April 18 at the Limehouse Memorial Hall and April 25 at the Nassagaweya Community Centre. Both sessions will run from 3:30 to 9 p.m.
Almost 40 per cent of residential wells in Halton recently tested by the Region were found to have high levels of bacteria-- a statistic that has regional councillors urging rural citizens to frequently sample their water supply. The study results, which were presented to the Region's health and social services committee last week, revealed that of the 303 wells randomly tested throughout the area by the Halton Region Health Department in 2006, 37 per cent had unacceptable water quality in terms of bacteria. And while Halton Medical Officer of Health Dr. Bob Nosal reported that the number is actually an improvement over the results from two studies in 2000 (45 per cent and 52 per cent with unacceptable water), he deemed the percentage to still be much too high. "Those are terrible statistics," he noted. The 2006 study also found that 54 per cent of residents who have wells never test their water for bacteria, while 13 per cent sample three times a year, another 13 per cent sample twice a year and 20 per cent sample once per year. "Our recommended frequency is three times per year," said Halton Environmental Health Manager Tony Amalfa. "I think we still have some work to do in this area in terms of awareness of the public." Halton Hills Councillor Clark Somerville suggested that the Region be a bit more proactive in its efforts to get residents to sample their water. The councillors around the table then brainstormed a few ideas on how to get citizens to do that, such as by making the water testing bottles available in more locations or doing a bulk mailing of the testing bottles to those with wells.
Staff estimated that mailing the bottles out would cost about $6 per package. To Oakville Councillor Fred Oliver, it would be money well spent. "I don't look at it as a cost-- I look at it as an investment," he remarked. Amalfa said staff is exploring other options to get the bottles out to the residents. Those who are found to have unacceptable levels of bacteria in their wells are provided educational information and advice by the health department to deal with the causes. Staff are also willing to personally check out a resident's well and give recommendations on how to remedy the bacteria situation. Amongst the causes of bacteria in the water are faulty well lids or cracked casings, which allow rain water and surface water to get in. Amalfa said that the health department isn't aware of any health problems that've been caused by the bacteria. He explained the presence of bacteria indicates that disease-causing organisms may also be in the water. Approximately 7,500 homes in Halton are on well water, with most of them located in the towns of Milton and Halton Hills. Well water information sessions have been scheduled for April 18 at the Limehouse Memorial Hall and April 25 at the Nassagaweya Community Centre. Both sessions will run from 3:30 to 9 p.m. A second phase of the well water study will take place this summer.