Today in Question Period, I asked the Minister of Health if the Provincial Health Officer has investigated the source of increased lead levels in drinking water along Stebbings Road and Goldstream Heights Road, and whether his ministry will take action to identify risks the contaminated soils sites have on drinking water in the Shawnigan watershed.
S. Furstenau: Elizabeth and Ed Brennan moved onto their property on Goldstream Heights road in Shawnigan Lake 14 years ago. They sourced their water from a well, and at the time, there were no water quality issues. But seven years ago their well, which sits next to a property that has been operating as a dumping site for soil, showed a marked increase in lead levels: 20 parts per billion.
Since that time, several sites along Stebbings Road and Goldstream Heights road have accepted hundreds of thousands of tonnes of soil, with little to no oversight from the provincial government. The situation for the Brennans is much more dire. Lead levels in their well have now skyrocketed to 80 parts per billion, more than 16 times the acceptable levels for lead.
My question is to the Minister of Health. Island Health staff have been to this home and determined that the lead is not coming from the plumbing, indicating that the lead is indeed in the well water. Will Island Health also test for hydrocarbons in the Brennans’ water, and has the provincial health officer been notified of this situation?
Hon. A. Dix: Obviously, and the member will understand this, we’re committed to ensuring safe drinking water around British Columbia. The site, as the member suggests, is a private well, serving a single residence. But obviously, the issues in the neighbourhood mean that there is significant concern in the community, as well as, of course, by the family in question.
Island Health, as the member suggested, did on-site testing on October 10. They found lead levels above acceptable levels, above the guidelines for Canadian drinking water quality. So they’re determining, as they are working together with the family and with the community, the source of the contamination, which I think is an important question to determine. Once that’s been determined, Island Health will make recommendations as to what actions can be taken.
The member will know, and I think she’s received such briefings as well, that the provincial health officer and others, of course, are aware of this file and would be happy to provide the member with a briefing.
Mr. Speaker: The House Leader Third Party on a supplemental.
S. Furstenau: I would recommend that to look for the source of contamination, the site directly adjacent to the Brennans’ property was determined in 2012 to have contamination of lead as well as hydrocarbons. This was a concern for the community of Shawnigan Lake at the time. Very little action has been taken. In fact, there has been a massive increase in dumping of soil throughout the northern part of the Shawnigan watershed at a number of sites in this region, many of which were determined in 2012 to have contamination already on their site.
Now we have a situation where a local well has lead levels as high as 80 parts per billion, far above the acceptable concentrations in the drinking water guidelines.
My question is again to the Minister of Health. Leadership is needed to protect drinking water now more than ever. Will the Ministry of Health now coordinate an action plan to identify the risks that all of these sites pose to drinking water in Shawnigan and identify the necessary steps to ensure that these risks are addressed?
Hon. A. Dix: As the member will know, because she’s raised them before, there are significant issues with respect to contaminated sites that the Minister of Environment is taking the lead on at Shawnigan Lake. These are, obviously, significant questions for the community and indeed, I think, for the whole province.
In this case, Island Health is taking leadership. They’re taking action on this matter. They’ve been to the site. They’re taking action. They’re going to be making recommendations as to what action is taken.
The member is quite right. And just so we understand and people out there understand, this contamination, the site in question, is not the former aggregate site. We’re talking about another site that previously had been permitted by the Cowichan Valley regional district. Action may need to be taken. That is why Island Health is taking the steps to get to the facts, to get to the fundamental information, so any action we take is made on the basis of evidence.