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Proposed Xinyi glass plant a potential 'significant drinking water threat' says Guelph CAO

Concerns include the plant's impact on Guelph's water supply because it is to be located in close proximity to a sensitive well

The City of Guelph's top manager has expressed the city's concerns about a proposed $450-million float glass factory  near the intersection of Highway 124 and County Road 32.

In a letter sent May 9 to his counterpart in Guelph/Eramosa Township, Guelph chief administrative officer Derrick Thomson laid out the concerns the Royal City's administration has about the proposed 2 million square-foot plant.

They include the proposed plant's impact on Guelph's water supply because it is to be located in close proximity from the Queensdale Well — which Thomson call's the city's well that is most sensitive to interference.

"Any new water takings within this area would be considered a significant drinking water threat and present a potential risk to the City’s water supply system," said Thomson in the letter.

A 2017 Tier 3 Water Budget and Local Area Risk Assessment study for Guelph and Guelph/Eramosa predicted the Queensdale Well will not be able to meet the future needs of the city under normal climate conditions. That study was made before Xinyi Glass made its intention known that plans on taking over a million litres of water per day from wells to be dug on its site.

Susan McSherry is a spokesperson for GETconcerned, an resident organization opposed to the building of the plant on the current proposed site. She wonders why her organization was not told about the letter when she says the Guelph/Eramosa mayor was asked directly at a public information session if there was concerns raised by Guelph.

Supporters discovered the letter when leafing through the agenda for Guelph/Eramosa's June meeting of township council.

“We happened upon it last week. In none of our discussions had any mention of this been made by the mayor of Guelph Eramosa Township or the CAO," said McSherry.

"If this tremendous amount of water is going to be extracted from the aquifer every day for 15 years before stopping, it poses a real threat for both township residents and city residents in terms of water supply, which is already in jeopardy," said McSherry.

“Guelph Eramosa mayor, CAO and council have not really weighed in significantly to address these concerns,” she added.

Guelph/Eramosa Township CAO Ian Roger did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Thomson's letter to his Guelph/Eramosa counterpart also speaks to concerns about wastewater treatment and disposal, an increase in traffic and pollution from the proposed site's planned 300-foot tall smoke stack.

"The city would be interested in modelling work that demonstrates the air quality impacts resulting from the stack," said Thomson in the letter.

The concerns of Guelph's CAO align with those of GETconcerned, said McSherry.

Xinyi says they are coming up with state of the art ways of water management that will allow for 20 per cent reduction in the amount of water they are going to use. During a public information meeting in March, Xinyi officials said an initial estimate of their water needs is 1.6-million litres per day. They have since stated it will be less than that.

Their water consultant has also said the water taking will not impact residential wells.

McSherry notes a 20 per cent reduction of that initial estimate is still about 1.3-million litres per day, which she called 'still significant'.

Also at issue is the zoning of the proposed site. In his letter, Thomson notes the current M1 zoning of the site requires any industrial use to be 'dry'.