• Protecting Water and Farmland in Simcoe County

“Gold standard” groundwater is area’s most precious natural resource, scientist tells Tiny

In AWARE News Network
May 16th, 2017
William Shotyk, right, addresses Tiny Township Council. Vickie Monague of Beausoleil First Nation, known for her role in stopping Dump Site 41, is at left, live streaming the presentation. -AWARE Simcoe photo

William Shotyk, right, addresses Tiny Township Council. Vickie Monague of Beausoleil First Nation, known for her role in stopping Dump Site 41, is at left, live streaming the presentation. 

‘There are people in the world who would give a limb to have water like this’

By Kate Harries – AWARE News Network

The scientist who tested the groundwater underlying the area once proposed for Dump Site 41 – and found it to be cleaner than 5,000 year-old Arctic ice – has told Tiny Township Council they have a unique and precious natural resource.

“This isn’t just great water, it’s not excellent water, this is outstanding remarkable water,” said William Shotyk, Bocock chair of Agriculture and the Environment at the University of Alberta, and the owner of a farm in Springwater.

“This water is the gold standard.”

Shotyk appeared before council last week in the wake of residents’ and councillors’ concerns about a proposed expansion of a quarry on French’s Hill, east of Site 41.

“This water is in your hands,” he told councillors. “But I think the opportunity is here to think about the value of the water from a much larger perspective, and not only for the citizens of this part of Ontario but for all the citizens of Ontario.”

Shotyk detailed how he started sampling local wells 25 years ago and used the water as a reference in a study that showed how contaminants are present in all bottled waters because they leach from the plastic.

More recently, Shotyk has installed two groundwater sampling wells at his Springwater farm. “The water is so clean I have to filter the air before I collect my water samples,” he said, “so I am not getting contamination from the air we are breathing.”

He noted that many people in Canada and around the world are unable to drink their water, either because of natural factors or pollution. “There are people in the world who would give a limb to have water like this,” he said. “People here have no idea how precious that water is.”

What makes the water exceptional? The answer lies in the soil, council was told – the way the water flows down through the glacial deposits of the Waverley Uplands and up through the fine sediments of the lowlands. “Really, to protect this water we have to understand the hydrology and I’m not sure who really understands the hydrology,” Shotyk said.

In their questions, Tiny politicians wrestled with the issue of how they could challenge the gravel pit operators along with the province, for which aggregate extraction takes high priority. Shotyk noted that the water exceeds the environment ministry’s drinking water quality guidelines by orders of magnitude. (In other words, it is so clean, it will take a lot of contamination).

“So I guess it’s a little bit of a philosophical question – what sort of water quality do you want to have? Do you want to have the water quality that Mother Nature has provided, that really cannot be improved upon, or do you want to have water quality that’s adequate?” He suggested that the water is the area’s most precious natural resource.

Shotyk was dismayed to learn that there is a proposal to bring in used asphalt into the quarry to be ground up and mixed with the extracted aggregate into a new product. “In Switzerland and Germany, when they’re rebuilding highways, they’re not moving any material. At one end of the machine they’re grinding up the old highway and at the other end of the machine they’re melting it and laying out the new highway. It doesn’t make sense to move asphalt anywhere.”

Shotyk is due to address Springwater Council on Wednesday, June 21. Video of his presentation to Tiny Council can be accessed on the May 8, 2017 edition of Tiny Township’s YouTube channel.

2 Responses to ““Gold standard” groundwater is area’s most precious natural resource, scientist tells Tiny”

  1. Ann says:

    Direct link to Bill Shotyk’s presentation: The archived presentation runs from ~ 37:00 to ~1:18:00 at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vtGD0vFKiuA

  2. Dr. Michael A. Powell says:

    Dear Tiny and Springwater Councils:

    First, I would like to disclose that I am a personal friend and colleague of Dr. William Shotyk.

    A challenge lies before you. One that is often set aside by government, political and administrative bodies. One that helps define the way Canada reacts to financial pressure in the face of environmental and resource protection. One that we have a long history of ignoring, to the detriment of society, but one which has become more and more globally visible in an attempt for all science to inform public policy and influence societal well-being. In fact, “societal impact” is now a major consideration for any researcher attempting to get research funding. The question is, how are research funds going to provide results that will give information to policy makers so that decision making creates policy that will improve quality of life?

    You are a lucky bunch of decision makers in Tiny and Springwater Townships, because the science has been done (the first step). Dr. Shotyk has already provided you with the results that should inform policy, the results that through sound policy development can protect and improve on the quality of life and maintain the ecosystems of your area. Many organizations around the World wish they had the kind of ammunition that you have at your fingertips to argue for the protection of a natural resource and as the motivation to study that resource in greater detail … how did this water become so clean? No one knows!

    How does knowledge about the current quality of these spring waters improve quality of life? In this instance, it is not a direct impact, it is rather an intangible benefit, one that gives people peace of mind, that allows them to smile, one that school children can talk about and conservation authorities can brag about, and that Ontario, and Canada, can be proud for protecting. While you may think this is an old argument, don’t take it lightly, it is not a trivial matter. Water is a “boundary object” that results in co-production of knowledge and linking between scientists, policy makers and boundary organizations; that joins people from far different fields into a common cause (1, 2, 3).

    Tiny and Springwater Townships can put themselves on a prestigious list of government administrations that have looked past the financial carrot dangled by developers and business interests, which have little knowledge or appreciate of the importance of boundary objects, and choose to help guarantee the preservation of a natural treasure. Further study of the mechanisms by which the glacial sediments and soils of this area produce this amazing water could yield results that can be used to identify similar clean-water sources in other areas of the globe, or inform water providers on new methods for purification.

    One thing is sure, if quarry activities in the area change the current setting, Tiny and Springwater Townships will no longer be able to boast of the quality of this water, nor worry about how it was produced, or be able to hold it up to the children as an example of sound stewardship! If nothing else, an expert committee to study the potential impact of proposed land use change should be appointed to study this matter and publicize the occurrence of this natural jewel that sits at your doorstep!

    (1) Rolf Lidskog (2014), Representing and regulating nature: boundary organisations, portable representations, and the science–policy interface, Environmental Politics, 23:4, 670-687, DOI: 10.1080/09644016.2013.898820.
    (2) K.M. Gustafsson, A. Agrawal, B. Lewenstein and S. Wolf (2015), The Monarch Butterfly through Time and Space: The Social Construction of an Icon, BioScience 65: 612–622, doi:10.1093/biosci/biv045.
    (3) Haas, P. M. and C. Stevens (2011), Organized Science, Usable Knowledge and Multilateral

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