Friday, April 27, 2012

WATER – 'Waste Not Want Not'

Thousands have lived without love, not one without water,” these words by W.H. Audens ring more true than most. News coming from England only days ago sound an alarming trend. Officially England has declared drought conditions, yet we have not even reached the end of Spring. Ireland has announced penalties for ignoring water restrictions, unheard of for the British Isles in the past. We are familiar with such restrictions in California and Australia, but to hear of such water shortages in England must raise serious questions.

There will be those who take this opportunity to predict visions of doom and raise the spectre of climate change and its disastrous effects on our Earth. Issues relating to climate change cannot be ignored, we have seen enough evidence to confirm that fact and now with such drastic water shortages facing a part of the world that rarely has seen anything like this in the past has to sound alarm bells indeed.

Here in Canada we have one of the largest fresh water sources in the world in the Great Lakes. Our governments, scientists and environmentalists all know that it is not a never ending supply replenishing itself. The volume of our daily needs far surpasses the natural resources of fresh water that replenish our Great Lakes. Water conservation is important in particular as our population grows, and so do our needs for water. Many governments throughout the country took the time to promote water conservation to the community. In the Niagara area this program worked so well that the conservation by the public has now raised a new problem for local government. We are in fact using much less municipal water and revenue shortfalls have provided new problems. Still the conservation of water is of the utmost importance, even over revenue issues, and if that rings true then I have to ask one serious question. How was this possible?

The Regional Municipality of Niagara sent out a crew on two separate days, April 17th and 18th 2012, to wash down the sidewalks of a regional road. Thousands of gallons of water came streaming through the hose simply to wash the concrete sidewalks. Premier Dalton McGuinty and Environment Minister Jim Bradley are touting their proposed plan and forthcoming legislation to protect the lakes, what could their response be to such insane waste?

For several years the governments on both municipal and provincial levels had spent a great deal of time to promote a message of conservation. Our water usage was becoming wasteful. We as Canadians can take a while before the penny drops (what's going to happen when the penny is no longer in circulation?), but we began to conserve. In fact we have conserved so well that now the municipalities are experiencing revenue shortfalls. As human beings, and the politicians are still human I think, we always look to shift the blame somewhere - that somewhere has turned out to be the bottled water companies and bottled water.

Municipalities began banning bottled water from areas they controlled, such as municipal buildings. This was not just a Canadian phenomenon alone as equal fever hit across the border in the U.S. Naturally questions always remained, how was it possible to stop any municipal employee from bringing in a bottle of water? Council of Canadians hurled their diva Maude Barlow in on the side of municipal water usage. Barlow who has authored several books on the issues of the importance of our fresh water became a spokesperson. No one can disagree with Maude Barlow that the Great Lakes are our most precious resource and that there are many parts of the world that struggle to satisfy the needs of their people for this most basic requirement to sustain life.

Banning the sale of bottled water from municipal buildings is far from democratic but that seems to escape Maude Barlow and the Council of Canadians. Is the ban to protect in anyway the public's health? No, the only motivation stems from dollars and cents. There have been claims that the bottling companies are robbing our watersheds. Something much more difficult to sell with the publication of these photographs of municipal staff washing down concrete sidewalks.

Then what is the real reason for the hysterical lashing of bottled water? Now Maude Barlow, the Council of Canadians and Sid Ryan Ontario CUPE President have joined forces to ban the sale of bottled water from our schools. Maybe it's a new way to teach our young what freedom of choice really means, or simply to have the young drink more pop and juice high with sugar for a healthy young body.

Maude Barlow still sings the song about the fossil fuels needed to deliver bottled water. I would presume that the delivery of beer to the beer stores is then not a concern to Barlow, maybe someone should ask Maude Barlow what she drives or how many vehicles in her family. Another point raised by Barlow and Sid Ryan of CUPE is the fact that plastic bottles are jamming our landfills. Yet most of our municipalities comment on the increase of recycling by the public. Not to forget that water bottles are not the only plastic bottles finding their way to landfill. What of the energy drinks or pop? Convenient to leave out facts as long as it suits your needs.

As far as recycling of plastic bottles stands the Regional Municipality of Niagara was in fact caught in a lie to the people of Niagara. In September of 2010 the Regional Chairman at the time, Peter Partington was notified and a solution was reached. A copy of his letter dated September 27th 2010 is posted. Not withstanding this rather embarrassing blunder, recycling has proven to be a winner with the public. Municipalities are reaping the rewards financially and the number of plastic bottles reaching landfills greatly reduced. I would challenge Maude Barlow or Sid Ryan to walk through a mall food court and examine how many water bottles are thrown into waste bins in comparison to other plastic bottles.

An article titled 'Politics of Bottled Water-Free Day' by John Challinor as guest columnist for the Toronto Sun first posted March 14th 2012, raises an interesting point. Challinor says, “CUPE fears if consumers drink more bottled water, they will consume less tap water. The public sector union believes such a trend will lead to reduced employment of its members, who operate most municipal water treatment facilities across Canada.” Can it be that the motivation is more self-serving on the part of CUPE? I'll quote another CUPE President, Fred Hahn from a letter sent to me, “CUPE is committed to representing our members and part of this representation includes our steadfast commitment to ensuring our members are able to do their jobs...”(This letter was dated April 4th 2012).

Whether or not an individual decides to choose a bottle of water or tap water it should be their decision alone. It is not up to Maude Barlow, the Council of Canadians or Sid Ryan and CUPE to orchestrate bans and the removal of free choice. Yet they are, and their explanations nothing more than a farce to hide the truth. Both Barlow and Ryan extol the qualities of municipal tap water, all of which is supplied by Lake Ontario and Lake Erie. Current Minister for the Environment Jim Bradley had this to say on March 12th 2012 after the meeting of mayors of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative: “As Ontarians, we are fortunate to be stewards of the Great Lakes – the largest freshwater resource in the world.” I can see Maude Barlow nodding her head in agreement with an 'I told you so' look on her face.

True the Great Lakes are a national and international treasure, but as stewards Minister Jim Bradley and the Dalton McGuinty government have been nothing more than liars and hypocrites. Look at the material and hard evidence provided on no ad LIB and then shake your head in disbelief. I would challenge both Jim Bradley and Dalton McGuinty to publicly answer my questions on these issues, but both will run from such an opportunity.

The current elected Chairperson and Director of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative is Mayor Brian McMullan and a close personal pal of Minister Jim Bradley. Now examine Mayor Brian McMullan's track record as an environmentalist claiming the right as head of the stewards of the “largest freshwater resource in the world.” In 2006/2007 the pumping of an estimated half a million gallons of mercury contaminated water directly into a storm water run-off sewer, our storm water run-off sewers empty directly into Lake Ontario. This was from a development on Glendale Ave in St. Catharines. The local MOE after almost two years of investigation said to disregard the test results as the tests were interfered with in the lab. That is a fact and I have it in writing from the Ontario Ministry of the Environment!

Now the same development site in 2007, the dumping of over 5000 tonnes of heavily soaked soil with mercury, lead, arsenic and copper at the Station Road Landfill in Wainfleet, Ontario only minutes physically from Lake Erie. Wainfleet's mayor is a member of of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative, and it was the Regional Municipality of Niagara that approved this.

Back to the Glendale Avenue area in St. Catharines, the pumping of water with a rainbow on the surface, a clear indicator of an oil or petroleum effluent. This water was pumped over several days directly into a storm water run-off sewer, photographs and independent lab tests were made available. Local MOE did nothing! Then again at the Glendale Ave. Site, next to an established restaurant, an excavation with water green as puss with the rainbow visible. Again pumps and a car park storm water run-off sewer, and again independent test results that were alarming.

True all of this occurred under the McGuinty Environment Ministers: Broten, Gerretsen and Wilkinson, though still under the watch of Mayor Brian McMullan, our head steward. A letter signed by Mayor Brian McMullan even states that the city was cooperating with the MOE in their investigation. But let's mot leave out our current Minister for the Environment and elected representative of the St. Catharines riding, Minister Jim Bradley. Dalton McGuinty's chief salesman has ignored several attempts at communication with him over an issue detailed in the article, 'When Is Orange Water Not Kool-Aid?' Orange water has been discharging through a drainage ditch connected to a storm water run-off sewer, in the open environment behind an auto collision business. This auto collision business has had three separate investigations on environmental grounds approved by the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario in a little over two years.

Enough lies and hypocrisy, Minister Bradley has ignored the very people who elected him. Our head steward Mayor Brian McMullan as always says nothing, though what could he. Maude Barlow and Sid Ryan will continue their roadshow. In the end it is up to the people to change, yet will they? Across the road from my home a neighbour annually takes his hose and empties his pool water directly into a storm water run-off sewer. There is a reason why this individual won't empty that water onto his grass as it will burn it yellow. There is enough scientific evidence on the harmful effects of chlorine. An experienced designer of pools for fashionable clientele such as Sir Richard Branson, Aric Entwistle owner of H2O Developments said this when asked, do you use chlorine? Answer, “No. It's harmful to the body's immune system and bad for the environment.” (Elle Decor Magazine May 2012 #185). The Niagara Region's Enforcement Officer said this to me over the phone, “we don't bother to enforce as so many do it.”

In the end to see an employee of a municipality hose down concrete sidewalks may pale in comparison to these issues, yet it should make anyone viewing this image angry as hell. Whoever approved this insanity at Region should not be permitted to make another decision again. Only three days after this hosing of the sidewalks we have had heavy rainfall lasting more than three days, the waste only more apparent and shocking. 

Bob Steele, Environmental Coordinator at Niagara Region in a media release of July 2007 had this to say, “Dry sweep decks and driveways instead of using a hose to help minimize water usage.” What has Mayor McMullan to say as the head of stewards and a member of regional council?

It is truly up to us the people in all the communities across Ontario, Canada, and further a field to care, for we are the stewards. Our children and grandchildren have to believe that their future is worth consideration by those who express love for them. Images of such waste have to anger us and it is up to us to question such actions loudly.

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