Ferguson eyes treatment option for Ancaster well


Ferguson eyes treatment option for Ancaster well

Councillor wants city water experts to probe arsenic solutions

COMMUNITY Aug 03, 2017 by Richard Leitner Ancaster News

Ancaster well

Ancaster well – Photo by Richard Leitner

Ancaster Coun. Lloyd Ferguson says he wants the city to see if there’s a “reasonably priced” way to remove the arsenic in a popular Sulphur Springs Road well’s water to allow it to remain open to the public.

He said he plans to introduce a motion at the Aug. 17 public works committee asking for a staff report on potential treatment options.

The well water’s arsenic levels typically range between 17 and 23 parts per billion — within the existing limit of 25 but about double the new standard of 10 set to take effect on Jan. 1.

The new limit on the carcinogen has prompted owner Hamilton Conservation Authority to signal plans to close the well by the end of the year.

I don’t know if a filter would do it, or maybe there’s some different technology.“I know UV light will remove E. coli, but I don’t know if it removes arsenic. I don’t know if a filter would do it, or maybe there’s some different technology,” Ferguson said, suggesting a reverse-osmosis system as another possibility.

“The conservation authority are not water people; they’re conservationists and they look after natural areas,” he said.

“Maybe (we can) arrange through the city budget, if it’s reasonably priced and it will work, to have the city do it because they’re the water experts.”

Ferguson proposal for a possible city-led solution came a day after Save Our Spring, a group dedicated to keeping the well open, held a second public meeting at the Copetown Community Centre that drew about 70 people.

Following an open discussion where many on hand indicated they rely on the well for their drinking water, the meeting broke into smaller groups to discuss three tasks set by organizers.

These included finding a way to survey how many people use the well and why; reviewing arsenic levels in bottled water and juices; and researching possible legal strategies to keep the well open.


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Chris McLeod, a member of SOS’s steering committee, suggested the well is wrongly classified as a small drinking water system, requiring it to meet the same standards as city water.

He said there are two other classifications, for spring water and mineral water, which have less stringent standards.

“It may come down to a legal argument, but it may also come down to specifics of language,” McLeod said.

“It can be something as simple as, well, let’s change the language so that’s actually more accurate because we do not consider that to be a small drinking water system, but we actually consider it to be a mineral-water source that we are all bottling for free.”

But the conservation authority manager who is recommending the well’s closure threw cold water on the idea of reclassifying the well when contacted the next day.

Matt Hall, director of capital projects and strategic services, said Hamilton’s public health department has classified the well as a small drinking water system, a view confirmed by the authority’s own legal advice.

“We’ve explained that to that group a number of times and they still seem to be adamant that there might be a way around it,” he said.

“We haven’t been informed or found a way around that. In fact, we’ve been told this is what it is and that’s why it has to comply.”

According to Health Canada, a population of 100,000 people drinking 1.5 litres of water with arsenic at 10 parts per billion for 70 years could expect three to 39 additional lung, bladder or liver cancers when all other factors are excluded.

That compares to an additional eight to 97 cancers drinking water at the present limit of 25 parts per billion.

by Richard Leitner

Richard Leitner is a Regional Reporter for Hamilton Community News (Ancaster News, Dundas Star News, Mountain News and Stoney Creek News). He can be reached at [email protected]

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1 thought on “Ferguson eyes treatment option for Ancaster well”

  1. Can anyone answer the question of “Why the arsenic standard has been set to 10 ppb?” Where is the evidence that suggests a need to lower it to such a level? And surely, there are contaminants in municipal water that are unhealthy, but which are absent in aquifer waters such as those at Sulphur Springs? Case in point are the pharmaceutical drugs that end up UNREMOVED in sewage treatment plants that pass through our drinking water facilities that may cause health effects. What about herbicides like atrazine that end up in Lake Ontario? Are they filtered out of the municipal water supply? Surely, we need to examine the consequences of drinking a whole range of contaminants before simply fingering a single one.

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