In the summer of 2017, 113 households in FoTTSA’s member associations elected to have their well water tested for nitrates. This was the third such program managed by FoTTSA. The first two (in 2010 and 2011) were inspired by the concern Greg Athron of the Ontario Ministry of the Environment expressed at FoTTSA’s 2010 Annual General Meeting about the possibility of nitrates leaching into groundwater and then into wells from farm and lawn fertilizers, manure, sewage, or septage spread on farmers’ fields. He pointed out that high nitrate concentrations in drinking water interfere with the blood’s ability to transport oxygen and can be especially detrimental to infants, pregnant women, nursing mothers, and seniors.

Ten beach associations participated in each of the first two nitrate programs (13 in all). This year 13 took part – Addison, Bluewater Georgina Wendake, Carusoe Bay, Cawaja, Cedar Point, Cleopatra, Edmor-Georgian Heights, Farlain Lake, Kingswood Acres, Nottawaga, Rowntree, Wahnekewening, and Woodland. (Many of our remaining member associations are on township run water systems, which are tested every three months for nitrates.)

For its part, FoTTSA supplied information about

  • nitrate contamination (with the assistance of the Severn Sound Environmental Association and the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit)
  • the cost of analysis
  • the time samples were to be taken

FoTTSA also created an appropriate form and instruction sheets, picked up the required bottles from the lab, distributed them along with forms and instructions to participating associations, and in due course collected the samples from each participating association, transported them to the lab, received the results, and e-mailed them to each participating household.

Of the 113 samples collected in 2017, none exceeded the limit of 10 mg/L set in the Ontario Drinking Water guidelines. Better still, the majority of samples (78) tested at 0.05 mg/L meaning that no nitrates or nitrites (which turn into nitrates) were detected.

The lowest amount the lab’s analysis method can detect is 0.05 mg/L. Of the 35 samples with nitrates, only one sample had a nitrate count of three mg/L (just 3.01), three samples were in the two mg/L range, and three others registered in the one mg/L range. The remaining 27 measured below one mg/L. Only two households had a nitrite count, and both were under the guideline limit of one mg/L.

Some time ago, regular testing of the township-run water system at Georgian Sands in the 15th Concession caught a gradually increasing nitrate content. The township used the years since discovery of the intensification to look for unaffected sources of water and hold public information meetings about the problem. Eventually the decision was taken to combine this system with another that had acceptable water and thus reduce the nitrates to a lower level. This example suggests that households whose wells have any nitrate content would be advised to have their well water tested every couple of years to see whether the nitrate level is rising and how quickly. If the levels increase, those households should ask the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit for advice.

Background Information on Wells & Septic Systems

Wells:

Past Articles from The Tiny Cottager:

Bored Wells

Ontario Government Publication on Wells

Disinfection Instruction Sheet

Water treatment for wells

Septic Systems:

Get to know your Septic Tank

CHMC Overview of septic systems including raised beds and aerobic

Signs of problems with a septic system

Septic Do’s & Don’ts

Care and feeding of your septic system

Article about Tiny Township septic inspection program

Waterloo biofilter system

Troubleshooting Guide for On-Site Septic Systems PAGE ONE    –PAGE TWO