Edmonton man wins dispute for water info

Edmonton man wins dispute for water info by Alex McCuaig, July 4, 2012, Medicine Hat News
An Alberta privacy commissioner’s ruling opening up access to a mountain of ground water data could end up being a watershed moment for scientists researching the quality of the province’s resource. In a excerpt of the privacy commissioner’s decision on the freedom of information request for water well data, the office ruled chemical analysis and microbiological reports collected over the past 28 years is not personal information. The ruling stated that releasing water well data held by Alberta Health Services, “would not be an unreasonable invasion of the personal privacy of the third parties in question.” Results from samples submitted from industrial, agricultural and residential water wells have been restricted from the public since 1986 when Alberta Health took control over the data. But retired Edmonton petroleum engineer Don Davidson launched a freedom of information (FOIP) request in August 2010 after finding he was unable to access ground water data for areas around Pigeon Lake. Davidson’s original request was denied by Alberta Health but his appeal of that decision triggered a public inquiry held in October 2011. “It’s great news for Albertans,” said Davidson. He said he undertook the process of attempting to obtain water well data because he couldn’t understand why it wasn’t available. “I couldn’t see why water – which all Albertans own – would be considered private information,” said Davidson. And while Davidson said he began the FOIP process by himself, he was supported by a number of Alberta scientists who were also attempting to access the water well data only to find themselves denied the information. Pending an appeal of the decision by the government, well water test results including the levels of coliform, other bacteria and minerals as well non-routine testing for pesticides and hydrocarbons will be available by request. Alberta has an estimated 220,000 private water wells across the province.

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