Cambridge… A History of our Drinking Water .. by Alan Marshall

Thursday, March 23, 2017


We all know lifetime smokers who have lived to 75 years of age. Ditto with people who are very overweight and or never exercised a day in their lives. Bad diets and fast food put some people in their graves by the time they are 50. The same diet in a different person and they just seem to keep on going. Toxic work exposures kill people in their 40s and 50s yet the person working beside them survives for another 25 years. Human beings are different plus they are more vulnerable at different stages of their lives.

Trichloroethylene is recognized as an extremely toxic solvent. At one time it was also a very commonly used solvent in industry. It was used as a degreaser. I used it I believe only once when I worked at Varnicolor Chemical in the late 1980s. I was outside wearing an ill fitting respirator spraying it into drums with grease in them. That night when I drove home I had a headache and thought my car’s exhaust must be leaking. It wasn’t. It was a Trichloroethylene (TCE) headache. I’ve only had a TCE headache one other time in my life and I didn’t recognize it for what it was until much later. I had been in a home in the Bishop St. community in Cambridge. Similar to tobacco you can build up a tolerance to the symptoms of TCE. Thus while the headaches or rashes may go away you are still being harmed.

The current health criteria for TCE in Canada is 5 parts per billion (ppb). Some U.S. jurisdictions have criteria of 3 ppb. I have a vague memory of TCE being at 5 ppb. in Ontario, moving up to 50 ppb in the 90s and then going back down to 5 again. While I’m positive that it used to be at 50 ppb. here I’d really like some confirmation that it had been bumped up to that from 5 before being reduced back to 5 ppb.

I just saved this post (work in progress) and did a five minute Google search to confirm U.S. drinking water criteria for TCE. I knew that some states have lower standards than the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and I was expecting around 3 ppb.. I’m in shock! The Minnesota Department of Health states that 2 ppb. TCE in drinking water is safe for most people over a lifetime but they recommend no higher than .4 ppb. in order to protect all consumers. The reduced concentration is to protect pregnant women, fetuses, the elderly and those with weakened immune systems. That 2 ppb. seems to match the high levels found in the Middleton drinking water in recent years. Again I have to ask the question as to whether the Region of Waterloo are managing their multimillion dollar enhanced treatment (AOP) to keep just below 2 ppb. TCE rather than to reduce it even further?

Those numbers in the previous paragraph tell me why we currently have an epidemic in cancer rates in Ontario and Canada. Keep in mind drinking water is not remotely the only route of exposure for human beings. The food we eat, the air we breathe, exposure to sun and other skin exposures are all part of the picture.

In the early 1990s the three Middleton St. wells (G1,G2,G3) had Trichloroethylene (TCE), Trichloroethane (TCA), Tetrachloroethane (also known as Perc), and Dichloroethylene (DCE) in them. They had TCE, TCA, Perc and Chloroform in them as well in the 1980s. The probability is that additional toxic chemicals in their own right would only be more hazardous in combination. That said all Ontario (& likely other jurisdictions) base individual criteria on the unlikely assumption that that chemical alone is in the water.

TCE was found in the early 90s at concentrations between 5 and 6 ppb. in well G1. Well G2 was between 7 and 10 ppb. Well G3 was between 7 and 9 ppb..

In the late 1980s well G1 had TCE at 6.4 ppb, well G2 had 13.7 ppb. and well G3 had 14.5 ppb..

TCA was found in the early 90s in well G1 at concentrations between 2 and 5 ppb.. Well G2 had TCA at concentrations between 4 and 11 ppb.. Well G3 was between 5 and 8 ppb..

TCA was found in the late 80s in well G1 at 3.7 ppb.. Well G2 was at 9.3 ppb. and well G3 was at 10.2 ppb..

Perc was found in well G3 in the early 90s between 1 and 2 ppb.. and in slightly lower concentrations in well G2.

Perc was also found in well G2 at 2.2 ppb. and well G3 at 2.5 ppb. in the late 80s.

DCE was also found in well G3 in the early 90s between .4 and .6 ppb..

My interpretation is that the Region of Waterloo have been trying to stay either ahead of or at least within the drinking water standards of the time. I also believe that they have accomplished this through management actions including dilution with other less contaminated wells. They now have a state of the art system at the Middleton wells but appear to be satisfied with keeping TCE present albeit below 2 ppb.. My assumption is that they are saving money on treatment by so doing. That is a management decision and it is wrong. Cambridge residents have a long exposure time (decades) to multiple toxic chemicals in their water and instead of the Region of Waterloo spending money on legacy projects for their politicians (ION) they need to be reducing TCE even further in Cambridge’s drinking water.

Saturday, March 25, 2017



Cambridge drinking wells continue to drop at an alarming pace.


After looking through the 2016 Annual (drinking water) Reports it appears as if a few more are either fully or partly down for the count. This includes P6 which has been down since 2011 as well as the Hespeler wells. H3 was shut down for all of last year, and H4 was also down for all of last year. That said H4 has been supposedly sharing duties with the addition in recent years of well H4A. I would expect that H4 is contaminated and H4A has a liner through the contaminated depths and picks up its groundwater from a cleaner depth. Well H5 was shut down for 14 weeks last year without reason given similar to the other wells. Also its’ organic parameter testing has not been updated since 2014. This may be legal but it’s not right.

Well G9 has had long term low level Trichloroethylene (TCE) in it from probably two nearby industrial sources. The TCE is at 2 ppb. which is similar to the criteria for the Minnesota Department of Health. Oh wait a minute. That’s the concentration of TCE from the last time it was tested in 2014. How neat is that that a well which routinely detects toxic TCE in it is not tested even on an annual basis? At least P6 was being tested for TCE several times a year before they shut it down in 2011 allegedly without finding any TCE. Well G9 was offline for eleven weeks last year. Once again no explanation is given. Such a confidence builder that is Region of Waterloo.

Preston well P15 was offline for 23 weeks last year. I guess Cambridge just has so much excess water available they can afford to shut multiple wells and pumps down for long periods of time. Again no explanation given. Preston well P9 had a very unusual event occur and it rated an Adverse Incident Report. Apparently Total Coliforms had 1 detection in the treated water. This is unusual in that while Total Coliforms are not unusual in raw water, to find even a detection of 1 in treated water is. The Corrective Action consisted of resampling the treated water and presumably the sample came up at zero.

Then we have Glyphosate tested at a Method Detection Limit (MDL) of 25 parts per billion (ppb.). This is a totally bizarre MDL. Most of the other organic parameters are tested between .1 and .5 ppb. with a couple around 1 and 1.3 ppb. and one at 1.5 ppb.. Glyphosate is the active ingredient in the herbicide Roundup. A number of sources have been sounding the alarm for this herbicide over the last several years. Allegations include that it can be toxic to aquatic organisms and that it may be a trigger for autism in humans. It is also used in GMO foods as well as has become ubiquitous on farms, residential lawns and in our drinking water.

This 25 ppb. MDL is throughout Cambridge’s drinking wells and most likely all of Waterloo Region. To date I have not checked every single Annual Report for 2016. What I can tell you is this. Ten years ago plus the MDL for Glyphosate in Waterloo Region wells was in the 2 parts per billion (ppb) ie. <2 ug/l range. Then it rose to <10 ppb. or <10 ug/l. Approximately in 2009 the Region of Waterloo raised the Method detection Limit to <25 ug/l or less than 25 parts per billion (ppb.). This < symbol stands for “less than” and basically means that the Region can claim that Glyphosate is non-detect albeit at a MDL of <25 ppb..

So Glyphosate is non-detect at a MDL of <25 ppb. What reasonable explanation for constantly raising the Method Detection Limit over time is there but that the concentrations of Glyphosate keep rising in our groundwater? While the Ontario Drinking Water Standard (ODWS) for Glyphosate currently is at an extremely high 280 ppb. I expect that the science will catch up with it. If the health concerns both for wildlife and humans are even half correct than just like TCE you will eventually see this Ontario Drinking Water Standard drop dramatically. Of course our governments believe that toxic exposure doesn’t really count as long as it’s below the ODWS. Furthermore and even more remarkably while they have absolutely no idea what TCE and Glyphosate together in drinking water can do to humans, rest assured no regional bureaucrats or politicians will be held liable for damages to your health.

**editors note*

Once again, Thank you Alan Marshall for all you have done and continue to do both for Elmira and the Cambridge residents.

Also.. for those like me, who see Greek when reading all these chemicals..

GOOGLE THEM.. you really need to know what is in our DRINKING WATER..

( make no mistake.. this mayor knows about this.. We have been warning him for years and years and years..

and yet he continues with his LEGACY PROJECTS..




7 Responses to Cambridge… A History of our Drinking Water .. by Alan Marshall

    Maggie Smith March 26, 2017 at 11:54 am

    Wow – what an interesting educational article. Too bad the Mayor & Council do not ready it. Maybe reason for so many kidney cancers?? Hespeler always had excellent water until Cambridge took over. Could not understand what happened after – but always rumours somehow they moved our good water to Galt?? But definitely a big change in our water here now.
    Why hasn’t there been an investigation done here? And when one sends in a water sample – is it done legally or not?
    Great article – no wonder the Mayor only drinks Guelph water – interesting…….

    Maggie Smith March 28, 2017 at 9:33 am

    Yes – interesting that the Mayor knows all about the Wells that are contaminated and does nothing about it, but continues on in his legacy issues of the Post Office which was purchased at over $300,000. of value, costing 12-15 M to renovate, and still building that BRIDGE TO NOWHERE – just ridiculous and we taxpayers don’t even have safe drinking water. What is the matter here? Craig needs to be proven his wrongdoings in the water issue. And now he is going to spend our Tax dollars on a Complex on someone else’s property to rent back at 2.5 m/yr – etc. etc. and in 50 or less years have nothing – no Complex – nothing – so Cambridge starts over again. How come a Neighbourhood group can come up with half of the money to renovate McIntosh Arena when our own Council/Staff haven’t even looked at private/public money for a centrally located Complex? And then we have Monteiro spouting off re Conestoga – he is telling lies & more lies – and we have well-educated professionals talking against Conestoga. What on earth is going on here in Cambridge???? Poor leadership for sure. Wish Cambridge people would wake up before too late…………..

    Maggie Smith April 4, 2017 at 2:52 pm

    Re: Drinking water – it is interesting to note that no one in Cambridge cares if they are drinking poisoned water or not. Their choice.
    But with Northstar in Preston & Monteiro supporting Northstar and not the people getting cancer from the contamination, well it is coming to light that Monteiro may be paying dearly for that contamination & fighting on the wrong side of the issue.
    Such is life – sometimes an error comes back to haunt. If Monteiro had fought to clean up the Northstar contamination, supported the facts, cleaned out the area with Council/Monteiro support – might have been a different story. Too bad. So sad!
    And now he is quoting FALSE NEWS re info on Sports Complex. FALSE NEWS!
    Hope this comes back to haunt as well. FALSE NEWS is poisoning people’s minds. Would be nice if for once he would own up & tell the truth – NO TO CONESTOGA$$$

    Gary Dick April 4, 2017 at 3:57 pm

    Many of us in Cambridge get shipped in water to drink. It is only a kidney unless you lie and say it is not my kidney. No man would lie. He looks terrible then so does Craig. The wrinkles on Pam are getting deep as well. I hope she’s not next. What if a funeral for Dyke were held tomorrow from cancer. How many would say he was a good man that wanted clean water? He lives on the Blue Heron TCE puddle. I drive through there a lot and hope the fumes don’t hurt me. I for one would feel terrible if he got deathly ill. I would give him one of my stones to help. Poison is one of the worst ways to die. We need clean water people.

    Tracy Hipel April 4, 2017 at 4:25 pm

    Draw own conclusions about water quality facts
    OPINION May 02, 2008 Cambridge Times

    In the letter about water quality concerns, Bev McDowell gave kudos to Rob Konduras for his column that raises concerns about the adverse effects of TCE on health.

    People in the Bishop Street area have been trying to alert the public and elected officials about TCE for the past four years, but it has fallen on deaf ears. People in the Middleton area have two choices with their drinking water. They can either turn on the tap and drink it, or they can turn off the tap and not drink it. The people in the Bishop Street area have no choice; there is no tap to turn on or off. Why? Because it is in the air that we breathe, the air that we having been breathing in for every hour spent in homes everyday and by some accounts for 40 years.

    In the article by Konduras, he stated that the standards were lowered from 50 to five in 2006. On the Health Canada website, it’s proposed to again lower from .05mg/L to .005mg/L. It is being lowered because people are now understanding how bad this chemical really is. The standard for water quality gives no confidence or security to the people who live in the Bishop Street area. Their homes are entombed with TCE vapour and there are no government standards regarding the amount one should be breathing in.

    Our health department is using a mathematical formula to show us that there are no long-term effects of TCE.

    If there are any chances of having health problems caused by a chemical that has entered the air in our homes, then I find this totally unacceptable.

    The health department has been asked on various occasions to do a health study to find out the effects of TCE in the Bishop Street area, but it is not willing to do so. If TCE is not a harmful chemical then why were more than 300 homes subjected to remediation by adding air filtration systems to clean the air of TCE vapors? Also, why are there no fewer than 17 sheds in homeowners’ backyards pumping TCE out of the ground?

    This begs the question – if TCE is not harmful then why is Northstar spending in excess of $20 million to clean it up? People in this city, and other cities, need to contact their elected officials and their health departments and inform them that they are not going to put up with this dangerous chemical being in their drinking water or in the air in their homes in which they breathe.

    Do the research for yourself and find out how dangerous TCE really is. Then you will understand why the government wants a total ban.

    Tracy Hipel


      Gloria April 4, 2017 at 5:01 pm

      Tracy, send this letter to Council. Frank Monteiro used to live by Bishop street and now he has kidney cancer. Kidney cancer is one of the top cancers caused by TCE. Perhaps the Councillors, or at least one or two of them will start to listen. I know others have been speaking out on this issue as well, so more people forwarding concerns, the better.

        Tracy Hipel April 4, 2017 at 5:41 pm

        Hi Gloria
        Frank still lives down the street from me (Grand valley) . I have asked for help for over 12 years and counting, my councillor the ex cop doesn’t want anything to do with us and frank is just frank, the only one ever interested was Jan

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