via: Toronto Star Published Nov 15 2011
Colin Perkel for The Canadian Press
TORONTO—More than a decade after the Walkerton disaster, much of Canada’s tap water remains at risk from contamination despite initial progress in front-line monitoring and treatment, a new report concludes.
In its third such report released Tuesday, the environmental group Ecojustice warns that while some jurisdictions have stepped up water protection efforts in the past five years, most have not done enough.
In 2000, seven people died and 2,500 fell ill in Walkerton, Ont., when the town’s poorly monitored drinking water was contaminated with E. coli from farm runoff.
The tragedy prompted most provinces to review and revamp their drinking water laws with mixed results — but that burst of enthusiasm has faded in recent years, according to the report.
“In many places, the health of Canadians is still at risk,” the report concludes.
“The lack of recent progress also seems to indicate that the impetus for improved water protection, spurred by events like Walkerton, is on the wane.”
The report called “Waterproof 3” finds only Ontario among the provinces worthy of an A grade for its water protection efforts, while Alberta lags with a C-.
The federal government gets an F for a record that continues to worsen, the report states.
In particular, the report criticizes Ottawa for a lack of progress on the legislative front, poor water quality for First Nations, and budget cuts it says will hurt Environment Canada’s ability to monitor the situation.
“The federal government is failing in almost every aspect of water protection, even though it should be setting rigorous standards,” the report says.
For the first time, the report has expanded to include source-water protection efforts — the idea that the best way to provide safe tap water is to ensure the water does not get contaminated in the first place.
The findings are not encouraging.
“Full-fledged source-water protection — a critical first step in achieving safe drinking water systems — has been implemented to some degree in only seven of 13 provinces and territories,” the report states.
“(It) is notably lacking in industry-heavy areas where the risk of contamination is high.”
For more information, please contact:
Kimberly Shearon, communications coordinator | Ecojustice
604.685.5618 x 242 | 778.988.1530
Sutton Eaves, communications director | Ecojustice