In early June, I wrote an article about the popular roadside spring located in the Gaspereau Valley that many people use as a source of drinking water. At that time, I asked if anyone would be interested in getting the water tested to ensure that it was safe to drink. Well, a lot of people were interested. I was contacted by at least a dozen people who use the water and wanted to see tests carried out. The article also caught the eye of Cliff Stanley. Dr. Stanley is a professor at Acadia in the Department of Earth and Environmental Science who has overseen and carried out water testing at other locations in the Valley. He informed me that he would be interested in analyzing samples collected from the spring over a period of months. This is because changes in the water table that occur from one season to the next can cause the concentrations of metals and chemicals to fluctuate.
“Unfortunately, to be rigorous, the samples will need to be stored so they can all be analyzed at the same time,” Dr. Stanley explains. “The samples will then be analyzed for a large suite of elements, and the resulting concentrations will be compared with ‘maximum allowable concentration’ recommendations for safe drinking water issued by Environment Canada. A number of additional calculations will be undertaken to determine what minerals have dissolved into the waters, and this may provide insight into the source of the water and what geological formations it has flowed through.” What I had thought would be a simple one-time test had suddenly become more complicated. Luckily, Dr. Stanley offered to take on the study and suggested that the best time to begin would be in mid-August.
While the sampling and analysis for metal and chemicals will take a year to complete, bacterial testing for Escherichia coli (E. coli) and other coliform bacteria was carried out immediately. Certain strains of E. coli are notorious for causing serious and even life-threatening health complications. I’m glad to report that a sample taken to the Valley Regional Hospital came back with no sign (0 counts) of bacteria. This is good news as Environment Nova Scotia reports that “studies of roadside springs in Nova Scotia found that about 90 percent had total coliforms present and 20 per cent had Escherichia coli.” In fact, the official government position on natural springs is that they are not a safe option for drinking water and that these sources are not tested or monitored. While some people are under the impression that the Gaspereau Spring has been tested by some government agency in the past, Environment Nova Scotia has no record to that effect and it is not a registered source for drinking water under the provincial Public Drinking Water Supply Program.
The first series of samples for chemical and metal analysis are now in frozen storage at Acadia and new ones will be collected every two months. Once the six series of samples have been collected, analysis will proceed. Final results will be reported in the Grapevine when they are available.