When people use the phrase “it must be something in the water,” they are likely referring to anywhere else but North Simcoe.

University of Alberta renewable resources professor Michael Powell addressed the recent meeting of Midland council with a request that could impact area residents.

“We would like the town of Midland to join in as an official partner on a groundwater study that will attempt to unravel the scientific secrets of why the waters of Simcoe County are so pristine,” pitched Powell to council.

In recent years, the neighbouring Township of Tiny was involved in the Elmvale Groundwater Project after Powell and fellow professor William Shotyk declared preliminary results of a 2021 study on the section of Alliston aquifer to be “cleaner than ancient arctic ice”.

At the Midland meeting, Powell explained that more than a dozen partners had already signed on to the project, providing example letters of intent to the town similar to what he had sent to Tiny, Beausoleil First Nation, and the Severn Sound Environmental Agency. 

“In the last three decades, the curiosity about that water has become international,” stated Powell.

“It has been determined that there are no organic pollutants in the water, there are no pesticides or herbicides, there are none of the organic materials you would expect from atmospheric deposition that you hear about in cities all across the world, there are no trace elements of environmental importance or health importance to human beings,’ said Powell.

“We have what is literally the most pristine water yet described on the face of the earth, and we don’t know why.”

Powell stated that the intent of the project was to fill “knowledge gaps” in the cause for the water’s purity. Through understanding the factors, Powell offered that other bodies of water with similar traits could be discovered in Canada.

“Also by industries, in looking for natural ways to build filtration systems out of locally available materials that can mimic what’s going on in the glacial field valleys in north Simcoe County,” he explained.

What Powell was asking of Midland council, through a NSERC (National Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada) Alliance grant, was for the town to offer up staff time and in-kind contributions for travel and supplies as an example. He added that there was no obligation from the town further to what they would want as a project partner, with the option to back out at any time.

Mayor Bill Gordon joined Coun. Roberta Bald in sharing anecdotes of using local water stations, as had many residents and visitors over the decades.

“I’m very familiar with the aquifer that you’re referring to, and I’ve availed myself of it many times on the way through Elmvale and it is absolutely incredible,” said Gordon.

“In the spirit of wanting to support science and understanding what makes it so magical, so that if we could recreate that when we need to, I could certainly think of a lot of Indigenous communities that are suffering with no clean drinking water,” said Gordon. “And if there could be some magic water filter that we could produce and circulate, that would certainly be helpful.”

His hesitation concerned binding the current and future councils of Midland to unforeseen financial obligations beyond the terms of the initial partnership agreement. Powell assured Gordon and council that in the NSERC document and the letter of intent, no cash contribution would be required.

A motion was presented that the committee of the whole support Powell through a letter of intent to Midland, which was approved. Following ratification of council at an upcoming meeting, a representative from the town will be considered to work alongside Powell in the project.

“We know there have been delays in us getting this project going – we better than anyone know them,” Powell concluded. “Things are moving ahead faster now than they have been in the past.”

A similar letter of intent can be found in the September 2022 agenda package on the Tiny Township website.

Council meetings are held every third Wednesday, and can be viewed on Rogers TV cable channel 53, or through the livestream on the Rogers TV website. Archives of council meetings are available through Rogers TV and on the Town of Midland’s YouTube channel.

By Derek Howard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Oct 30, 2023 at 13:31

This item reprinted with permission from   MidlandToday.ca   Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario
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