Kids & Company is a Toronto-based child care company with nearly 70 sites across the country. The one in Hammonds Plains, Nova Scotia has a four-star rating on Yelp.com. However, the well water at the Hammonds Plains centre has been contaminated with bacteria four times over the past five year – one time in 2010, another in 2013 and twice last year.
Site director Michelle Morash says she hasn’t been able to find the contamination source yet. “We just have a plumber come in and shock (disinfect) the well,” says Morash. “And then we have to have two negative water tests afterwards. Then we can remove the boil water order.”
She recalls the 108 children at her centre had to drink bottled water instead of the tap water for five days when bacteria was detected just before the Labour Day long weekend last year. “We buy the big jugs of water and we fill up the pitcher and put it in the fridge to serve the kids,” says Morash. “We also prepare the food with that bottled water. It just takes us longer during the day to do our things.”
A search in the Environment Department’s well log database shows, the casing in the drilled well that provides water to the centre is six metres long. The province’s Well Construction Regulations require that length to be at least 6.1 metres. Well casing is a pipe held in place by cement inside wells to separate contaminated surface water from fresh well water.
Inspectors of the department enforce the regulation by checking the well and determining if it’s properly constructed. If not, they have the obligation to ask drillers or diggers to fix the well or shut it down.
Anna Curtis-Steele, an engineering technologist at the Sydney regional office of the department’s Compliance Division, has audited public drinking water supplies and analyzed water source data for over three decades. She says inspectors are supposed to assess the well construction at least every three years during a routine audit, especially when bacteria is detected multiple times.
However, according to documents obtained from the Environment Department, Kids & Company hasn’t been audited for at least five years.
This map below shows the more than a hundred businesses serving water to the public, including Kids & Company, that haven’t been audited between January 2010 to January 2015, despite repeatedly having bacteria problems in the water system.
According to last year’s auditor general’s report, these audits could be delayed one to ten years.