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Area water needs protection: scientist

Andrew Philips

By Andrew Philips, Special to Postmedia Network

TINY TOWNSHIP -- For William Shotyk, the message to area residents is simple.

"This (region's) water is the gold standard," Shotyk said during a presentation to Tiny Township councillors earlier this week.

"Why is this water so clean? Its filtration by the soil. Soil is Mother Nature's perfect air filter."

Shotyk, an academic who has been studying water taken from the aquifer near Elmvale for nearly 25 years, said area residents must be vigilant to ensure the water source isn't compromised.

"We want to protect the quality of the water, but we also need to protect the quantity of that water," said Shotyk, who owns a property in Springwater Township and began testing water from the area years ago; finding it to be cleaner than 5,000-year-old Arctic ice cores.

"The water in this area is our most precious natural resource and I think it should be protected for future generations."

At the Tiny meeting, Shotyk also referenced those in attendance who were involved in the fight to protect the aquifer from Dump Site 41, Simcoe County's landfill option that was struck down in 2009 following boisterous public opposition.

"If you need to take on the province or anybody else, I know that there are residents in your township that are highly motivated to protect this water," he said.

"You have an army of volunteers who would help you and work with you. People care very deeply about this water."

And Shotyk's resumé clearly indicates he knows of what he speaks.

After completing a PhD in geochemistry from London's University of Western Ontario in 1986, Shotyk has been involved with research projects throughout North America and Europe, including a stint at the University of Heidelberg where he served as director of the Institute of Environmental Geochemistry.

Since 2011, he has held the position of Bocock Chair in agriculture and environment at the University of Alberta. It's there that he works with a SWAMP laboratory; a state-of-the-art, ultra-clean, metal-free research facility, devoted to environmental and agricultural research and teaching.

Shotyk said the lab is used to study the sources, transformations, behaviour and fate of trace elements in soils, waters, air, manures and plants (aka SWAMP).

He started his presentation, which coincides with news an aggregates company is considering expanding its local quarry operation, by talking about Alberta.

"To my surprise, we have water that is unfit for human consumption," he said, noting some samples showed elevated levels of things like sodium, arsenic and manganese.

"There are many places in Canada where you cannot drink the groundwater. Springwater Township has beautiful water gushing out of the ground that you drink directly. How many places on Earth can you drink water directly from the ground?"

Afterwards, Tiny Deputy Mayor Steffen Walma said he had always heard that the region has some of the cleanest water in the world, but it's quite amazing to have it confirmed by a world-renowned scientist.

"Anything that could potentially affect the quality of our drinking water would have to come with a lot of assurances," Walma said, noting that means any plan would have to feature stronger guarantees than standard government regulations.

"A misinformed decision today has the potential to affect not only ourselves but our neighbouring townships and future generations to come. This is a resource that we have to protect."

Mayor George Cornell echoed Walma's sentiments: "Through his presentation, it was made clear that we have some of the cleanest water on Earth, right here in our own backyard."

Cornell said the township's official and strategic plans remain firmly focused on environmental protection.

"We will consider the points raised by Dr. Shotyk in our deliberations as we move forward," he said. "The protection of the quality of our water is key, as it is our most precious resource."

andrewphilips@live.ca



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