Canada’s bluest communities: Chelsea, Que.
This town of 7,000 is a national leader in groundwater management among rural areas and smaller centres
“[The tragedy at] Walkerton has been on the minds of Canadians since it happened,” says Rachel Deslauriers, project manager of treatment systems and sustainable development co-ordinator for the municipality of Chelsea. “It’s reassuring for our residents to know there’s no problem with our water.”
The municipality has no large-scale treatment or distribution system, and most homes rely on wells and septic tanks. To prevent cross-contamination between the two, Chelsea requires new homes to have at least one acre of land, and 10 years ago introduced stiff pesticide restrictions on all types of property, including golf courses. Chelsea also prohibits construction within 15 metres of wetlands, and each new development must prove through a hydro-geological study that there’s enough water to sustain it.
Residents can voluntarily test the safety of their household water; the municipality makes weekly runs to a lab in Ottawa, 20 kilometres to the south, with samples. In addition, volunteers sample waterways and the results are presented to the public in an annual report.
Since 2003, a partnership between a local environmental nonprofit organization, the municipality and the University of Ottawa has been protecting water quality and quantity by ensuring that all decisions are scientifically and environmentally sound. “In Chelsea,” says Deslauriers, “we don’t have to convince our decision makers that the environment is important.”
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