Bottled water recall revives health regulation debate
A recall revelation has reopened the debate over tap versus bottled water.
Health inspectors shut down Caledon-based Blue Glass Water Co. Ltd. three months ago after the discovery of bacteria in water samples, The Toronto Star reported Thursday.
It is still unknown whether all Blue Glass products have been removed from store shelves, according to The Star.
Now, with questions resurfacing about the effectiveness of bottled water legislation, some experts say tap water is the safer alternative due to its rigorous testing and regulations.
“I really can’t say why people have swung toward bottled water,” said Doug Jones, Director of Public Works in the Town of Orangeville – which is located near Caledon.
“When I was a kid, if somebody had talked about someone selling water in a bottle, people would have thought you were nuts. It just wasn’t done.”
The difference is drinking water distributed to homes, offices and other buildings is under provincial jurisdiction, unlike bottled water which falls under the federal Food and Drugs Act with different regulations.
“Bottled water is considered a food product and as such is regulated by Health Canada for use and sale in Canada,” said Kate Jordan, spokesperson for Ontario’s Ministry of the Environment.
“Manufacturers and importers of bottled water are required to ensure that their products meet health and safety standards enforced by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.”
Rules changed after Walkerton
After the Walkerton tragedy in 2000, Justice Dennis O’Connor created a thorough multi-barrier approach to drinking water regulation, said Jones.The barriers introduced were a rigorous treatment system, secure water distribution system, robust monitor program, preparing contingency plans and source-water protection, he told Humber News.
“We take bacteriological samples at different locations throughout our system weekly and we undertake enhanced chemical sampling throughout our system on a monthly basis,” said Jones.
“All of those samples have to be sent to a third-party accredited laboratory that is required to send any adverse results not just to us, but also to the Medical Officer for Health and the Ministry of the Environment.”
Municipal drinking water is subject to extensive and regular testing, with more than 500,000 tests conducted annually, said Jordan.
“Ontario’s chief drinking water inspector’s latest annual report shows that 99.87 per cent of all drinking water quality tests submitted by municipal residential drinking water systems met ministry standards.”
Despite such thorough regulations for tap water, Jones said he thinks many people still choose bottled water because of the chlorine taste.
“It is absolutely a good thing to have the chlorine there, because what it is telling you is if the chlorine is present you can be fairly certain that there are no bacteria in the water. Therefore, the water is safe to drink from a microbiological perspective.”