The Ontario municipality of Chatham-Kent, near the U.S. Detroit border, is working on signs in public places to warn people of potential sewage contamination regarding three municipal drains; however, no health complaints have been filed so far.
The warning comes long after testing performed by the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks in May 2017, although it remains unclear why it took more than a year for municipal officials to receive the results. In issuing the data, the ministry ordered Chatham-Kent to post signs about the potential contamination on public access areas of The Burke Drain, Burke Drain Extension and Dankey Creek Drain. These signs will be posted by October 12.
The municipality has indicated that it’s still investigating the cause of the sewage contamination, while suggesting that similar issues have occured in the past.
Chatham-Kent has approximately 4,100 municipal drains with an estimated total length of 4,000 kilometres. Municipal drains have been a fixture of rural Ontario’s infrastructure since the 1800s, constructed to improve the drainage of agricultural land by serving as the discharge point for private agricultural tile drainage systems. They also remove excess water collected by other properties in rural areas.
“The Chatham-Kent Public Health Unit advises that they have had no reports of adverse effects on human health,” the municipality stated in a news release to media. “Residents are advised to avoid direct contact with the waterways and ensure children and pets do as well.”
The Chatham-Kent Public Utilities Commission was formed in 1998 from the amalgamation of 23 townships and 13 public utility commissions in Kent County. Since that time, it has created a utility system that serves some 110,000 people.
In 2010, the commission decided to not proceed with the installation of sewers because of soaring costs, project delays, and community opposition.
The commission has eight wastewater treatment plants, two lagoon systems, approximately 533 km of sanitary sewers lines, 50 km of combined sanitary and storm sewer lines, 23,381 km of private drain connections, and 29,493 customer connections to sanitary sewers.