Grey Bruce Public Health will be consulting with municipalities, businesses, and other partners to develop a local plan aimed at ensuring all Grey-Bruce residents have equitable, convenient access to Public Health Ontario’s free well water testing service.
The plan would see GBPH establishing and servicing a network of water sample drop-off and pick-up sites – replacing and adding to those serviced locally by a PHO courier – to make locations available within a 30-minute drive of any household in Grey-Bruce.
“Public Health Ontario’s private drinking water testing program is a critical, high-demand service in Grey-Bruce that helps to ensure the water our rural families, farmers, visitors, and others rely on is safe to consume,” said Grey-Bruce Medical Officer of Health Dr. Ian Arra. “Grey Bruce Public Health, along with municipal partners, have been advocating for PHO to increase the number of water sample pick-up and drop-off locations in Grey-Bruce to fill existing gaps, including in Saugeen Shores, which has not had a drop-off location since the start of the pandemic.”
However, GBPH recently learned that PHO does not intend to increase the number of locations and is considering eliminating most of the existing drop-off sites.
“Because of this, we saw an opportunity to take ownership of this issue and create a local solution,” Dr. Arra said. “We will be connecting with local municipalities for their input as we design this plan to ensure it meets the needs of everyone in Grey-Bruce. We wish to thank our municipal partners, including Saugeen Shores Mayor Luke Charbonneau, who have joined Public Health in advocating for an equitable private water testing service in Grey-Bruce.”
The Ontario Ministry of Health has expressed support for GBPH’s plan to design a local solution.
GBPH will investigate retaining a courier service that could pick up water samples at several new drop-off locations in Grey-Bruce and then transfer the samples to the PHO courier as they service hospitals in the area.
Grey Bruce Public Health has, for years, collaborated with Public Health Ontario and other partners to make PHO’s private drinking water testing program available free of charge to Grey-Bruce residents who draw water from wells and other private systems.
Key to the program’s success in Grey-Bruce – due to the region’s size and rural nature – is having multiple locations, strategically placed throughout the region, where people can pick up water sample kits and drop off water samples. Water samples are then collected and transported by a PHO courier to a lab in London for testing.
In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, policy changes by Grey-Bruce hospitals resulted in a reduction in the number of available pick-up/drop-off locations in Grey-Bruce. Several grocery stores, which had been deemed essential businesses, stepped up to serve as temporary locations.
All of the temporary locations are still in place, along with locations in Owen Sound, Walkerton, and Lion’s Head. A current list of locations is available at this link.
Grey Bruce Public Health has been in discussions with PHO in hopes of not only re-establishing permanent locations, but increasing the number of locations to ensure all Grey-Bruce residents have equitable access to the program.
The public will receive updates as GBPH’s local plan is developed.