Contamination of Grand River coming from upstream

A study measuring the quality of water in the Grand River found the majority of pollutants are coming from municipalities upstream and are concentrated around Fairchild Creek.

Pesticides, e-coli, and human waste by-products are all present in the Grand River but the state of the art treatment plant in Ohsweken is filtering most of that out, according to one of the study authors, Marsha Serville-Tertullien, from Trent University.

She recommended Six Nations tell municipalities up stream to clean up their act in order to reduce potential contaminants in Six Nations’ drinking water.

The study involved sampling water from various points along the Grand River and placing “polar organic chemical integrative samplers” in the water at various spots for 14 days to detect certain chemicals within the water.

Study authors were checking for the presence of caffeine, pesticides, Sucralose, e-coli and other total coliforms (which indicate the presence of fecal matter) in the Grand River.

Sampling points were located upstream, one at Fairchild Creek, one just below Fairchild Creek, and near the Ohsweken Water Treatment Plant. Fairchild Creek is a tributary of the Grand River near Rockton, Ont.

The study found the presence of all contaminants in the river are mostly coming from upstream and near Fairchild Creek.

Sucralose and caffeine are indicators of human household wastewater pollution, and pesticides indicate contamination is coming from agricultural sources, said Serville-Tertullien.

Most of the pesticides found were also located upstream of the Grand River.

The good news, though, is that the Six Nations Water Treatment Plant is doing its job.

“The treatment plant is doing a really good job at removing those chemicals from the water,” said Serville-Tertullien.

The Six Nations water treatment plant uses various purification methods, such as UV disinfection and bacterial activated carbon filtration, among others.

Those two types of technology are fairly unique.

“Not all drinking water plants are fitted with those types of technology,” said Serville-Tertullien. “They were doing a good job at removing those contaminants that were coming from upstream.”

The plant was shown to have removed fungicides and herbicides from the water, as well.

There were, however, “substantial amounts of caffeine and Sucralose” (an artificial sweetener) found upstream.

The study showed the water treatment plant removed more caffeine from drinking water than it did Sucralose.

The study also found there were high levels of e.coli and coliforms at Fairchild Creek but the water treatment plant reduced them to levels accepted by Health Canada.

The take home, said Serville-Tertullien, was that the Grand River continues to be polluted by domestic wastewater and agricultural run-off and Fairchild Creek is contributing to that contamination.

She recommended that municipalities upstream be pressured to make changes to keep the water cleaner and safer.

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