Water testing to continue for Mississippi Mills, Ont., homes near NRC fire lab

The National Research Council says it will continue sampling and testing drinking water, maintaining water filtration systems and providing bottled water for some residents of Mississippi Mills, Ont., until the fall of 2018 at the earliest, after chemicals were found in the groundwater there earlier this year.

Residents near fire lab to keep getting bottled water until at least fall of 2018 due to contamination

Bottled water will be given out to some residents in Mississippi Mills, Ont., affected by groundwater contamination until the fall of 2018 at the earliest, the National Research Council says.

The National Research Council says it will continue sampling and testing drinking water, maintaining water filtration systems and providing bottled water for some residents of Mississippi Mills, Ont., until the fall of 2018 at the earliest, after chemicals were found in the groundwater there earlier this year.

The NRC has operated the National Fire Laboratory on Ramsay Concession Road 8 in Mississippi Mills since 1981. Houses are constructed inside the large warehouse-like building and set on fire to test firefighting chemicals.

The fire centre was one of 150 federal properties singled out for environmental assessment, which began in 2013, and perfluoroalkylated substances, or PFAS, were discovered in the groundwater from drill sites close to the facility's border.

Scientific information is limited on PFAS, Health Canada says, but in studies done on animals, "high levels of PFAS have been linked with negative health effects ... including liver damage and impacts on neurological development," the agency's fact sheet says.

In humans, short-term exposure to PFAS at levels slightly above the safety threshold isn't expected to have health effects, according to Health Canada, but the agency does not define what constitutes short- or long-term exposure.

Staff warned 2 years before residents

Employees at the federal fire safety testing facility were told to stop drinking the water in January 2014.

Residents living near the facility weren't told about the groundwater contamination until December 2015, nearly two years later.
The National Fire Laboratory is located on Ramsay Concession Road 8. (CBC)

Currently, 45 homes are receiving bottled water and 43 have accepted charcoal filtration systems from the NRC. 

In a statement issued Wednesday, an NRC spokesperson said groundwater will continue to be tested seasonally until the fall of 2018, when the NRC will evaluate whether testing needs to continue.

The NRC said it eliminated residual sources of PFAS that "may have been contributing to groundwater contamination" and added an "impermeable layer to limit further migration of PFAS to the drinking water," which was completed in September this year.

Dozens of affected residents have hired a lawyer in the hopes of launching a class-action lawsuit.