Nova Scotia

Spring water tests reveal contaminants

Three springs on mainland Nova Scotia have failed new water quality tests, including a popular spot in Gays River that failed an earlier test by the province.

CBC's tests raise questions about safety

The CBC's tests show the water at the Gays River spring is unsafe to drink. ((CBC))
Three springs on mainland Nova Scotia have failed new water quality tests, including a popular spot in Gays River that failed an earlier test by the province.

CBC News collected water samples from five springs on Sept. 6, after the provincial government warned people that the water at Gays River was unsafe to drink.

The results show that the water there is still unsafe because total coliform levels are too high.

Springs in Ardoise and Forest Home in central Nova Scotia also failed the CBC's water quality tests.

However, water samples collected from a spring in Truro Heights and one in Gaspereau came back clean.

There was a steady stream of people at the spring in Truro Heights, just west of Truro, when the water samples were collected. David Clark said the water in his own home isn't fit to drink, so he prefers the spring.

The water from the Spring in Truro Heights is purified. ((CBC))

"It has good water and it's been looked after. I believe the Town of Truro looks after it all the time. They keep it plowed out in the wintertime and keep it graded up in summertime. We have no problem getting in and out," said Clark.

Clark's favourite watering hole is actually a pipe in a wooden enclosure that's maintained by the Municipality of the County of Colchester. The spring is on the other side of a country road. The water flows through a buried pipe and passes through a box containing ultraviolet light, which purifies it.

The province doesn't test or screen spring water regularly. As a result, the Environment Department maintains that springs are not safe sources for drinking water. In a study conducted in 1999, the department found that more than 90 per cent of springs did not meet safe water standards.

The water at the Gays River spring was tested several times this summer after someone contacted the local MLA. A warning was issued on Aug. 31 when tests showed that total coliform and nitrate levels were too high.

CBC News used the same collection methods and the same testing laboratory as the province.

Environment Minister Stirling Beliveau is not surprised by the test results. He said untested means unsafe.

"I know that many of these potential spring water sources across the province. And again, these sites ...never should be used as for consumption or for a drinking source," said Beliveau.

Bruce Gates owns and maintains one of the three springs that failed a CBC test, the one in Ardoise along the side of Highway 1. His own tests showed the same results - that it is unsuitable for drinking because of high coliform levels, which can cause diarrhea.

He said so far, the water hasn't bothered him, and he plans to continue to use it. He makes the water available free to anyone, in addition to piping it into his own home.

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