Some of the clearest water in the world was passing through the bleak skies some 70 years ago, filling with droplets filled with ash, soot, vehicle exhaust, chemicals and heavy metals.
It seeped through gravel, glacial silt and permeable rock and eventually passed through a hose and into a pitcher held by Bonnie Pose.
The water shimmers in the morning sun as she pours a glass. “It’s some of the best things on the planet,” she says, taking a sip.
Moments later, she holds a pot of dirty water. “And that’s what it looks like when companies start washing off the gravel.”
After years of careful analysis, scientists believe the Ontario townships of Tyne and Tai – just an hour and a half north of Toronto – contain the purest water on the planet.
But the strangeness of the geology that is believed to have produced this water is also coveted by gravel mining companies, which have announced plans to expand operations. In recent months, the region has found itself at the center of an escalating conflict, which stands against the protection of water supplies. The growing power of resource extraction companies.
Gravel mines have operated in the area for more than a decade, but residents fear a planned expansion could prove disastrous to the area’s groundwater. The new 13.5-hectare Teiden Pit mine atop French Hill – the vast mass of silt, gravel, alluvial soil and trees that scientists believe is the secret to the region’s ancient waters – will be stripped of the soil and gravel layer by heavy machinery and trucks Close to feed the construction boom in the big cities.
Since 2009, Pozzey has collected samples in mason jars that document changes in the water, which he and other residents say coincide with the expansion of mining in the area. Some specimens contain small clumps of silt suspended in water; Others turn black when shaken.
Pause and her husband, a hydrologist hired by Jake, shares their faith The water-intensive process of gravel washing is responsible for intermittently contaminating groundwater with silt. that The claim is disputed by the province’s environment ministry., which suggests that he has a problem with her.
In a statement to the Granthshala, Dufferin Aggregates, part of the Dublin-based CHG, said that all operations “are carried out in line with all legal and environmental compliance requirements, including through reduction, reuse and recycling measures wherever possible.” including minimizing water use”.
But such certainty is wrong, said William Shotick, a geochemist at the University of Alberta whose family farm sits in the shadow of French Hill.
“The world’s leading authorities do not fully understand water,” said Shotick, the first scientist to quantify water’s purity. “And yet, we have a total of companies saying they won’t affect water quality.”
Until recently, the world’s purest water was believed to have been trapped in Arctic ice thousands of years ago. But in 2006, Shotick and his colleagues found that the water from their farm contained five times less lead than samples from the Arctic Core—a result that still seems mind-boggling. At the time, there were only a few facilities in the world that could measure such low lead concentrations.
“This is not great water. This is not sublime water. This water is absolutely unique. It is a miracle of nature,” he said. “But we do not understand how much water is there, where it is coming from, how much of it It’s moving fast, where is it going and how did nature make it.”
Today, Shotik has a carefully designed facility to better understand water. Researchers from all over the world have arrived to take samples in his small cabin. The team washed the equipment in acid, used polypropylene plastic and enclosed the spigots in glass cases to ensure that ambient air did not contaminate the samples. Subsequent testing found that the water had an incredibly low concentration of chloride and was devoid of any organic contaminants from nearby farms.
John Cherry, a leading expert in hydrogeology and founder of ground water projectA . But he fears the ecosystem may be altered before scientists can fully understand the phenomenon.
“The last place a civilized society should do holistic mining is an area where the most pristine waters are found,” he said. “Everything we do is stupid – and total mining over pristine water is quite stupid – because groundwater suffers from more ignorance than any other water resource – [because] We don’t see it.”
With so many unknowns surrounding the groundwaters of Tyne and Tai, scientists are requesting five years to study the water and the surrounding ecosystem before the mine expansion begins.
“We are told that Canada has more freshwater per capita than any other country in the world and that we live in this wonderful freshwater haven. Water is cheap and so it is so rare that we can really see that for the foreseeable future. Let’s do anything as a society to protect our water resources,” Cheri said.
The residents of the area have won the last battle. In 2009, the 50-acre (20-hectare) Site 41 landfill was removed after widespread public opposition, a victory made possible only with the help of neighboring First Nations.
Those indigenous communities are now closely watching the fight against gravel mines – and preparing for another battle.
“I do this for my grandchildren,” said Beth Elson of nearby Beausoleil First Nation. “Knowing that they will need clean water is great motivation. Water is part of us. And it has to be taken care of.”
Elson was a central figure in the fight for the failed landfill project, and travels frequently from his home on the pristine shores of Georgian Bay to perform water ceremonies in the area.
“You lift the water, you pray and sing songs and honor the water. We give some to Mother Earth, some to the fire and then we move the water around. To help connect us all. Everyone has a little taste for it.”
But she worries that this fight feels different from Site 41.
“I don’t know when [Indigenous peoples] We will get to play our part here… As neighbours, we are just watching, but we are often called at the 11th hour,” she said. “We should have closed the roads right off the bat. Until then. They don’t dig holes, don’t wait till then. We should have gone right when the first tree was cut down.”
Pozzey says the faltering pace of the fight over worsening public health restrictions has demoralized the community.
One autumn afternoon, while walking under maple, beech and hemlock, blankets stand on top of French Hill, Posey and local resident Kate Harris, listening to the rumble of swarms of swarms above – and of the total operation in the distance. distant humming.
“We really want to pause all of this to find out what’s at stake,” Poze said. “We want to know why this water is so special.”
“If only for the history books.”