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$33k in fines for drinking water violations

By Adam Riley Feb 7, 2024 | 1:00 PM

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A drinking water owner, director and operator in the Thunder Bay area have been convicted and fined a combined $33,000 for violating both the Safe Drinking Water Act and the Ontario Water Resources Act.

The violations occurred on various dates between January 1, 2019 and April 13, 2022.

Court heard Silver Springs Estates Trailer Park in Gorham had its drinking water system treat raw water using chlorination alone between 2013 and 2018.

Approximately 150 people live in the 66 mobile homes which make up the park.

The system is connected to wells which obtain water from a surface water supply, regulations for those systems require owners to ensure a higher level of water treatment than what would be required for a groundwater supply.

Along with the addition of a disinfectant like chlorine, owners are required to ensure the treatment equipment is capable of achieving chemically-assisted filtration and primary disinfection before water enters the distribution system or is capable of producing water of equal or better quality.

An inspection by the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks in 2018 resulted in an order being placed upon the system’s owner, Walter Marchese, who was also the park’s owner at the time of the offences, with a requirement to install and operate the required water treatment equipment and provide a new engineers report within 30 days of completing the work.

Alterations were made in both 2018 and 2021, however Marchese failed to submit the engineers report, additionally the alterations made to the system were in non-compliance with the SDWA.

An inspection on July 5th, 2021 also noted the identification of several additional compliance issues, namely the conditions of a ministry permit to take water had not been met, as current records were either missing or incomplete and no water taking-data had been submitted to the ministry.

Distribution samples were also not being collected or tested for bacteria in accordance with prescribed schedules, it was also discovered the samples had not been tested for Trihalomethanes, a possible carcinogen for humans, during the second quarter of 2021.

Later that year ministry staff requested the drinking water system’s operator and owner of Water Quality Services (10072923 Canada Inc.), John Gervis, provide records missing during the previous inspection in July, which Gervis refused to provide.

On October 6th, 2021, Water Quality Services was ordered to produce documents and records to the ministry within 48 hours, which the company failed to comply.

In April of 2022, following a change in ownership of the driinking water system, Marchese had not only still failed to ensure an engineer’s report had been prepared but the alterations to the system continued to be in non-compliance.

This prompted an investigation by the MECP Environmental Investigations and Enforcement Branch resulted in the charges.

Marchese was convicted of two violations of the Safe Drinking Water Act and one violation of the Ontario Water Resources Act:

  • Failing to ensure that a report was prepared by a licensed engineer within 30 days of completing alterations to the drinking water system
  • Failing to ensure that the required water treatment equipment was provided
  • Failing to comply with a permit to take water by failing to maintain and submit water-taking records as required

He was fined $12,000 plus a victim fine surcharge of $3,000 and has been given one year to pay.

Meanwhile, Gervis and 10072923 Canada Inc. were each convicted of three violations of the Safe Drinking Water Act:

  • Failing to ensure that sampling/testing requirements were met
  • Failing to comply with a ministry Order to provide records and documentation to the ministry for Silver Springs Estates Trailer Park drinking water system
  • Obstructing a Provincial Officer by refusing to provide required information

Gervis and the numbered company were fined a total of $21,000 plus a victim fine surcharge of $5,250 and has been given one year to pay.

The convictions occurred on both September 8th and November 17th of 2023.