Compromise pitched to save Sulphur Springs
Public health officials have suggested using passcards to limit access to popular Sulphur Springs, instead of closing the artesian well over new health regulations.
The Hamilton Conservation Authority announced months ago it would be forced to close the Ancaster mineral springs because of stricter incoming standards for allowable arsenic in drinking water.
But Ancaster Coun. Lloyd Ferguson said he will present a compromise, suggested by public health officials, to the board of the authority at a meeting in early October.
“We think we’ve found a solution that can work,” said Ferguson, who nonetheless emphasized the decision is up to the conservation authority, which owns the well. “I’m hopeful we will not have to close the well.”
Ferguson said the idea is to fence and limit access to the well site with swipe cards, which would-be spring users purchase from the conservation authority — provided they sign a waiver acknowledging the risks.
Testing at the spring has historically registered naturally occurring arsenic levels between 0.017 and 0.023 mg per litre. That met the old regulated limit of 0.025 mg/l — but not the incoming, stricter limit for public drinking water of 0.01 mg/l.
An email to Ferguson from the public health department says the artesian well would no longer be considered a regulated “public facility” if the owner restricts general public access and posts signs that state the water is not for drinking and lists associated risks.
The proposal comes as members of the Save our Spring group prepare to pitch an alternate idea: a sale of the well property to a local community association.
Ferguson previously asked the city to report on the costs involved in treating spring water to reduce arsenic levels. But public works managers have already warned a technological solution wouldn’t come cheap.
Longtime users of the spring — who hail from across the city and nearby communities — have expressed outrage at the threatened closure.
Some say they prefer the spring water — despite higher arsenic and sodium levels — over the municipally-treated alternative containing fluoride and chlorine.
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