Province cuts water testing

Teresa Wright
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Tourism operator fears cuts could pose a risk to public safey

In June, the health department notified operators of restaurants, bars and swimming pools in Prince Edward Island it would no longer be testing their water, as has been the practice during yearly inspections.

One government department can no longer afford the fee increases of another, and now a major tourism operator in the province says he is concerned about a risk to public safety.

In June, the health department notified operators of restaurants, bars and swimming pools in the province it would no longer be testing their water, as has been the practice during yearly inspections.

Now, owners and operators are responsible for collecting their own water samples and having them tested to ensure no bacteria such as E. coli is present.

But this change comes at a time when the highest number of swimming pools ever are being shut down by environmental health due to water quality problems identified during testing.

Ryan Neale, senior environmental health officer for the Department of Health, said water analysis tests were previously conducted at no cost to operators as part of annual inspections.

But government recently approved a fee increase for water tests, which are performed by the Department of Environment. The fees were raised from $27.50 per test to $35.

This made the tests too expensive for the health department. Previously, health was spending between $40,000 to $50,0000 annually in water testing fees.

"The department is not able to absorb the costs of water sample analysis any longer and so that's why that change was made," Neale said.

But Matthew Jelley, president of the Cavendish Beach and the Dunes Shores Tourism Association and also a major tourism operator in the province, questioned the appropriateness of cutting spending on water testing. He worries this could pose a risk to public safety.

"I certainly would question whether this is the best place to make a cut," Jelley said.

"We understand that government has to make some spending decisions, but in areas where the public health is at risk and in areas where there have been effective testing in the past that have uncovered issues, it seems like an unusual policy to form."

Jelley, who operates a water park in Cavendish among numerous ventures, said he is especially concerned over the fact swimming pools will no longer be tested by health officials.

In the same letter advising operators of the water testing policy change, a warning was issued to pool operators over the concerning number of pools that had to be closed after water quality problems were identified.

A total of 31 pools were closed in 2011 for inadequate disinfectant, high cyanuric levels, chemical imbalance or water clarity issues, according to the health department letter.

"We are disappointed to see pool closures have increased over 100 per cent since 2008," the letter says, calling this a "serious decline in compliance."

"The department is not able to absorb the costs of water sample analysis any longer and so that's why that change was made," Ryan Neale, senior environmental health officer for the Department of Health

"In addition, 37 pools had insufficient operating records to log water chemistry readings, an essential component to track your pool's performance."

Despite the warning, the situation is not getting better.

Neale said so far this year 25 pools have had to be shut down due to the same problems found in water samples.

That's almost a quarter of all public and semi-public pools in the province. And Neale said he believes more will be found and this year's final numbers will be similar to last.

One of the main issues is a lack of understanding about how to regulate pool water and the chemicals that must go in it, he said.

"We're using the routine inspections as an opportunity to educate and on follow up inspections, we see that they are getting the message."

Despite Jelley's concerns, Neale does not believe pool operators and restaurant and bar owners testing their own water will put public safety at risk. As part of the changes, environmental health officers will be conducting random audits to ensure test results provided by the operators are legitimate.

"Our goal, as always, and we hope the goal of an operator too, is to provide a safe water supply for the public," he said.

"We feel that operators are responsible enough to sample their own water and provide those results to us. But can we stop those situations (of non-compliance)? Maybe not."

He also pointed out that accommodations operators in the province have been doing their own water testing for the last few years.

Don Cudmore of the Tourism Industry Association of P.E.I. said the issue has been brought to the attention of TIAPEI and he is seeking information from the department.

"Health inspections and all safety inspections are very important to keeping the integrity to P.E.I. tourism operators as well as guaranteeing safety of our visitors," Cudmore said.

 

twright@theguardian.pe.ca

 

JUST THE FACTS

 

Total number of public/semi-public pools in P.E.I.: 109

Number of pools shut down due to water quality issues in 2011: 31

Number of pools shut down due to water quality problems this year to date: 25

 

 

Organizations: Department of Health, Department of Environment, Dunes Shores Tourism Association Tourism Industry Association of P.E.I.

Geographic location: Cavendish, P.E.I.

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Recent comments

  • Just cough it up
    August 21, 2012 - 18:50

    "it's about time": I can't read all that, but I must say I agree with what I did read. The province is not saying that water testing is no longer necessary or required, it is simply telling owners to cough up the small fee of $35. I don't see why the province was ever paying the fee for business owners. Those of us living with wells in rural areas have to pay, why shouldn't they?

  • It's about time
    August 21, 2012 - 03:45

    As a graduate from University of PEI, having worked in government offices as well as in the private sector, I'm shocked the pools that have closed have not sucked it up, got the testing kit, dropped it off and now addmiting thst they are un-educated on proper pool maintenance and logging this data. Seems simple to blame the Governmet but this is another case of the rich crying over being treated like common folk. If a Ma & Pa B&B can absorb the cost 4 times a year why can't your bookeeper/accountant find a place to use this as an operating expense thus lowering your taxable income and increasing cash flow?? With everyone knowing everyone else's business on the Island, business's of all sizes are constantly writing off more than a simple water sample and it blows my mind. What about the fuel for their company car that sports not a single graphic that it is in fact a company rig, You know the shiny lease that's fill-ups each week with the costs dumped on the company credit card, as is the lease; and wait a damn minute your wife drives it to her day job, You use your truck to drive to and from your business and then also your own recreationional purpose and just add it to your list of expenses, not noting the true mileage used for personal and business its all business right! Time those who take advantage of adding this thst and the other into the companies operating costs start to realize the cost of more than a water sample. I say cry a little louder and maybe a real tax audit and survey of kms used by wifey are logged by a unsuspecting passer by, and then lets see a real income tax submission at the end of the year. Oh wait if you cant write off the wifes car you will have to lay off some employees, so put a call into your MLA get this little misunderstanding swept under the rug, you give so much already. Let the common folk pay more tax, soon Canada will have only the poor and the rich no middle income because let's face it, it's our paycheque and legitiment income tax and consumer spending that drives the economy. The government is right in making you pay these fees, if you don't want to drive in and pick up the testing kit or you want to cheat the system some more lets make it mandatory that each suprise inspection includes a water test 4 times a season and your presented with a bill. Maybe someone with some business sense should open a water testing lab now and conduct these tests for the government at $75 a shot plus a Km fee for driving to your business and make it mandatory so you cannot cheat the system. Surely we have enough unemployed science grads who can fill a testing facility and there is plenty of real estate to choose from, Mr. Opportunity knock knock yea you with the deep pockets surely you can absorb the start up costs and take this burden off the back of the government. People complain they don't have the services and training now I smell an easy million dollar operation opportunity. Mr. Minister of Heath enact a policy that the private sector be serviced by a third party and that it be mandatory for operatioal liscenses. If the government keeps getting crafty you never know when the wife's lease may come out to be tripple the cost to your bottom line in penalties and fees for a false tax submissions, you crafty business owner. The tax office seeks out new ventures like this all the time, the construction sector was hit hard and is still being monitored in what has made the government billions just on the surface of the underground economy in that area. This is tiny in comparison to the fact that if all if this is too much, well its an opportune time given thr amount you can sell your small business for, what was once a tax free sale of 500k jumped to 750k because of all the inflated fees and cost to run a business your bottom line is less and less now that you have to be legit and can't buy your neighbour a beer and have the matter swept under the rug boo hoo, Wait did I mention that it's now 3/4 of a million tax free? If the extra costs can't be written off as a true operating costs and you cant operate with another fee call your real estate agent and sell, or suck it up and be legit, wait you'll have to take back the lease your wife drives! Why would you be so silly. SUCK IT UP & WRITE IT OFF as a legit operational cost. Oh wait you have been submitting tax forms each month with a cheque and writing a bigger cheque at year end. You should be able to call someone and make it go away, those times are over that's what's ruined things in the first place GREEDY FAT CATS. The bail out days are over so eat it. This is just an example of the rich not getting richer off the backs of common tax payers and its about time. Time to toe the line like the rest us. It's about time a government bail out is over I vote let's help the homeowner go GeoThermal and stop the pollution and oil BS. So your going to vote blue in the next election on hopes they refund your water testing costs. Give it up, that's what's wrong with society and our Governmet nobody want to be accountable for the real costs. Take back the leases and pay it like the common Islander does, our backs are broke from carrying you this long. Time to live like a real Islander sink or swim!

  • intobed
    August 16, 2012 - 15:56

    Maybe we should just put a big sign on the Confederation Bridge and at the ferry terminal at Caribou NB - "Prince Edward Island - Enter At Your Own Risk".

    • intobed
      August 16, 2012 - 20:23

      Oops! I meant Caribou NS. Sorry!

  • FUNS OVER
    August 16, 2012 - 13:01

    The funs over business owners. The Government is so far in debt from bad planning that they are going to start treating you the same as they treat the ordinary citizen so be prepared to start paying your share finally. No more good old boys don't pay.

  • XComa
    August 16, 2012 - 12:51

    Increase Fees and Taxes.. Decrease Services.. Check and Check.. the Government is doing great job at governing. ... I am just kidding. They are doing a Terrible job at governing. I think they forgot they are civil or public servants. Can we not just Fire these Servants and get new ones? If we have to wait til next election, we may as well bring in some large Navy Ships and Blow PEI right off the Map because by then it will be ruined. Well, maybe not ruined, but only the Rich and Elite will be able to afford to live.

  • Guy Cousineau
    August 16, 2012 - 10:46

    Now we're on an even keel - almost. Bed and Breakfast operators must have their water tested 4 times per year at their cost. Restaurants were tested only once a year for free. I agree. Make everyone responsible for their water safety and make them accountable to the appropriate licencing authority by showing results of recent water tests upon inspection. On another part of this story, I do not agree with the increase in fees for water testing. This should be a public service to encourage everyone, not just tourism operators and restaurants, to ensure the safety of their drinking water.

  • hmatthewl
    August 16, 2012 - 09:16

    The writing was on the wall, before the last election, though it was hidden by a see through curtain. This govenment needed 2 terms to guarantee their pensions, they would have told you the sky was pink, in order to get voted back in.. The electorate received , exactly what they deserve. Welcome to the world of cut back's and HST

  • Water Tester
    August 16, 2012 - 08:40

    Say what? As a former Tourist Business Operator who was driven to close down by all the ridiculous rules, regs and costs imposed by Tourism PEI, the only one that made any sense was the water test one which I was responsible for collecting, dropping off for testing and paying for every year in order to keep my license.

    • SHELLIE
      August 16, 2012 - 11:47

      MOST DEFINITLY - Y E S - This Not well thought out Ghizzy decision will and does pose a risk to public safety. Along with everything else he's scewed up, now it's Tourism. Way to go A-hole. >> For all the underhanded - deceptive deals that THIS Government , their Father-In-Laws and Associates have profited from on the backs of islanders AND Immigrants, NOW - IMO - It is putting the Public, a d Tourism Owners at Risk, TO Cover the DEBTS these Less than Honorable Politicians have created. PEI certainlt is NOTHING as compared to a "gentle Island." It's CORRUPT !

  • Itolduso
    August 16, 2012 - 08:38

    about time. if operators want to do busness then pay for the testing. Why should I as a regular citizen pay for busness opperators testing. Busness is going to get the bennifets from the HST so I don't want to hear any complaining because I will be paying a lot more in taxes. I shouldn't have to pay for your water testing. I have to pay for my own. one other comment it was stated "We feel that operators are responsible enough to sample their own water and provide those results to us. But can we stop those situations (of non-compliance)? Maybe not." it should have read: We feel that operators should be responsible enough to sample their own water and provide those results to us. Can we stop those situations (of non-compliance)? YES with the right auditting system and the right punishment for Non-complience."

  • Darrin Deveau
    August 16, 2012 - 08:29

    Ok now....Hold on a second!. As a tourism operator with rental properties, I am mandated to collect water samples every 3 months and to pay for it.. Why should there be a double standard? Operators of restaurants, bars and swimming pools in the province will need to share the burden just like i do and other Tourism operators. Pay for your sampling. Do you think this government cares whether you like it or not? Let us all share the pain of Provincial Fiscal irresponsibility and show the government how we feel next provincial election. Why did I ever move back to PEI

    • Matthew Jelley
      August 16, 2012 - 09:19

      Darrin, It is not the cost of the water sampling that concerns me. We pay pool licensing fees, similar to a lot of other fees. in the past, this included mandatory water testing by a trained person. Now, instead of increasing the fee, they have eliminated the impartial test. That is my concern. It is not about the cost or asking to have it paid for.

    • Darrin Deveau
      August 16, 2012 - 11:15

      Oh I understand now. Sounds like the government is bailing out on the cost of having the impartial inspectors come out to test and jeopardizing safety. Definitely not the place to make a cut....I suspect every department is mandated to make cuts somewhere...The government actions never surprise me now

    • Ed Gallant
      August 17, 2012 - 11:23

      @Matthew Jelly - Train your staff to monitor your pools. It's not rocket science. PH up, PH down.

  • Bob
    August 16, 2012 - 07:55

    IT'S TIME FOR THE MLA'S TO MAKE SOME CUT'S TO THEIR OWN PAY AND PENSIONS.EVERYBODY ELSE HAS TO ABOUT MONEY EVERY MONTH FOR BILLS .IT'S TIME THEY DO THE SAME.

  • AD
    August 16, 2012 - 07:46

    Why wouldn't you do the water testing and charge the costs to the establishment that you are inspecting?

  • Janet Gaudet
    August 16, 2012 - 07:38

    Every year we get our drinking water tested and pay for it. I pick up a bottle, get a sample and take it for testing. No one does it for us and it's at our own expense. Why have all these people been provided this service free of charge? They should be completely responsible for collecting their own water samples and delivering them for testing and pay for them like the rest of us have to do.

  • Donnie
    August 16, 2012 - 07:29

    So, in an effort to increase fees, the government has decided that the government is a big rip off, and therefore will no longer pay itself for it's overpriced services and will now force the taxpayer that it forces to use the service to now bear the burden of the cost of the test they refuse to do although it was previously included in their annual testing.....and it's a matter of public safety that they are aware of decreased compliance and more violations.....brilliant, absolutely brilliant.....

  • Quiet Observer
    August 16, 2012 - 06:51

    If this wasn't so dangerous it would be funny.

  • johnthames
    August 16, 2012 - 06:50

    A "penny-wise but pound-foolish" move by the Ghiz government that may end very badly for someone. Water is a huge issue that is being ignored by this government at everyone's expense. Shame.

  • Domino
    August 16, 2012 - 06:28

    Way to go Robbie Ghiz, Robbie Henderson and Dougie Currie! You guys are getting into uncharted territory in incompetence and abandonment of the public trust. What a deeply distressing message to Islanders!!! Do not swim in the pools!!!That is the only conclusion that can be drawn here. And smack in the middle of tourism season. This fee structure change should have been handled properly in the budget cycle, spaced over a few years, and put to bed so it would not be a story in the middle of the summer. The Ghiz government is desperate, confused, misguided, and chaotic. Our Cabinet was too busy spinning HST benefits to business when it should have been dialoguing constructively on cost recovery. They have lost control of everything. They can't even protect public health in swimming pools for the love of God! They are jacking up taxes and fees and cutting vital public services with no sense of priority. And yet they still can build huge patronage projects such as the 2014 MLA building and Plan B. There is nothing more despicable than a government out of control and still pushing ahead with back room pet projects that are not in the public interest.

  • By the pool
    August 16, 2012 - 05:29

    I wasnt too far from a pool this summer, actually not long ago when a girl inspector was there to take a water sample and do her job, when the pool water test failed and she had to shut the pool down because it was discusting no doubt, all you could hear was the owner screaming his face off at this poor girl, he screamed her right to her vehicle, so Iam glad he has to pay for all this himself, serves him right, pool owners , restaurant owners dont respect the inspector and thats too bad. Sooooo with all that I say let the pool make someone sick, or the restaurant have e-coli in their drinking water, and let them get sued, who will they blame then, anyone but themselves

  • don
    August 16, 2012 - 00:14

    so a person could send in a fake sample to be tested and when it pass's they are free and clear. so much for the care of islanders by the dizzy gang.