March 10, 2000

Groundwater study assesses PEI municipal systems

A survey of groundwater quality from municipal water systems in Prince Edward Island, carried out by University of Waterloo specialists, indicates that drinking water from municipal groundwater wells across the province is generally of good quality.

The study examined water from municipal wells in 12 communities and analyzed samples for 217 water quality parameters. Because of the high level of agricultural land use in PEI, particular emphasis was given to pesticides: of the parameters for which the samples were tested, 142 were pesticide compounds. The study report, released by the Sierra Club of Eastern Canada, said no pesticides were detected in the samples and other organic compounds, where detected, were at levels well below guideline values.

Results for inorganic parameters were also positive, with only two samples showing a parameter exceeding guideline levels. Both cases involved lead at slightly elevated levels, and the report suggests that the detections in the distribution samples could be attributed to lead dissolving into water from pipes or lead solder. The waters sampled were considered to be "young" or "recent," indicating that the groundwater was recharged during recent decades during which there was extensive use of industrial and agricultural chemicals.

The study emphasizes the need for municipal utilities to maintain water testing programs and recommends that the provincial government build on work it is already doing by developing more specific legislation for the protection of groundwater. A provincewide program to monitor ambient groundwater quality is recommended as well.

"This work provides a valuable and independent review of groundwater quality on PEI as well as baseline data that will complement municipalities' water monitoring programs," said Technology and Environment Minister Mitch Murphy. He indicated that in the near future his department will be working to help communities develop well field protection strategies.

More information is available from George Somers, water resources division, Technology and Environment, 902/368-5046.

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