Water grief brings cowboy to tears

Water grief brings cowboy to tears by Jason Fekete, with files from Renata D’Aliesio, May 2, 2007, Calgary Herald
Ponoka-area farmer Shawn Campbell, 57, tried to choke back tears under the brim of his cowboy hat at a news conference, when he argued rural Albertans’ worries over their contaminated and potentially toxic groundwater are largely falling on deaf ears. … Industry production has contaminated their water with several explosive gases, he insisted, such as methane, ethane and propane. But the government is treating them like a bunch of “dumb farmers,” he said, and is failing to protect the best interests of citizens. … But Environment Minister Rob Renner said Tuesday there’s been methane in groundwater for years and that only recently have Albertans become more aware of the issue. “We do everything that we possibly can to maintain the integrity of our groundwater,” Renner told reporters at the legislature. “If there is any clear evidence that we need to take further action, we’re prepared to do so.” But Renner said the province’s analysis of sample wells shows most of the contamination issues are the result of poor well maintenance by landowners. Alec Blyth, a hydrogeologist with the Alberta Research Council who’s part of the scientific panel reviewing Alberta’s water testing rules…believes improvements to the province’s testing system are required. One gap he’s cited is the need to collect better data on the natural gas from coal bed methane wells. “We’ve got a fingerprint of the gas, but there is nothing to compare it to,” he said recently. “I think that leads to problems.”

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