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Man walking for awareness of groundwater issues takes the battle home

Shane Philips, originally from Fergus, has been walking to BlueTriton owned properties in the region

A man leading walks for awareness around groundwater issues made his stop at his hometown that has been waging a battle over water bottlers for years. 

Shane Philips is leading the Ear to Groundwater walks to engage with communities facing groundwater issues.

Wednesday he will be walking from the Middlebrook Well on the outskirts of Elora to Fergus, visiting the offices of Ted Arnott and Michael Chong.

Philips told EloraFergusToday it was important to bring this walk here as he considers it his community. 

He said he grew up in Fergus, spending nearly 30 years in the area and held local jobs around water at the Elora Gorge Conservation Area. 

He said he has now noticed some smaller lakes are drying up and the Grand River and quarry both are fluctuating more than they used to.

“I decided to walk here because it just made absolute sense, it’s part of the same struggle in Guelph, part of the same struggle in Hillsburgh, part of the struggle we have around the social inequities around water,” Philips said. 

“It’s really important to come back and remind people there is a lot of work to do on the environmental front, there’s a lot of work to do on the social justice front if we want to really work for a society that is inclusive and equal.”

Centre Wellington is no stranger to issues around water. 

Save Our Water previously fought Nestle Waters over the Middlebrook Well and now has their eyes on BlueTriton Brands who purchased North American operations from the company this year. 

This purchase includes the Middlebrook Well although new legislation requires municipal consent to take more than 379.000 litres of water per day.

Donna McCaw of Save Our Water said the town is at significant risk for water and needs to find new well locations and even that amount of water is not acceptable.

“We know that if this well is permitted to take even that 379,000 litre per day amount that would still interfere with local municipal wells and local water supply,” McCaw said. 

“This has been a very difficult area to find good wells. So if we have found one, why on earth would we give it away?”

McCaw explained the town previously tried to buy the well but were unsuccessful as Nestle purchased it in 2016. She also said a water study showed the town has enough water supply to service only to about 2031 which brings uncertainty around expected growth in the area.

Andreanne Simard, natural resource manager for BlueTriton Brands, said via email there are no plans for the Middlebrook Well beyond the long-term monitoring they have been doing since purchasing the property. 

“If they don’t have a plan for heaven’s sake divest of it,” McCaw said in response to this. “I might know a buyer.”