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SOURIS RIVER COLONY, MB: HUTTERITE COLONY WINS RIGHT NOT TO CHLORINATE, BWA REMAINS
In 2015, the Souris River Hutterian Brethren disputed two tickets with fines, related to Manitoba’s Drinking Water Safety Act. The effort resulted in acquittals for each charge: failing to disinfect the community water supply and failing to submit water quality tests. With a Boil Water Advisory remaining in effect, WaterToday contacted Souris River Colony to find out more.
The Hutterian Brethren of Souris River Colony has been farming around Elgin, Manitoba since 1977.
The community produces most of the foodstuffs required for its members, on site in the garden and barns. Colony members work together to accomplish the necessities of day to day life, along with managing the well water that supplies the homes, shops, barns and communal buildings, including the church, school and kitchen.
Secretary/Treasurer for the Souris River Colony, George Wipf told WaterToday, “the (water) problem started because of some (guy) on a power trip”, referring to the Prairie Mountain Health Region inspectors as “some kind of water police”.
A Manitoba Provincial Court official confirmed that two tickets with fines had been delivered to the Souris River Colony in 2014. The charges came under Manitoba’s Drinking Water Safety Act, section 20 (1) failure to disinfect and section 21 (1) failure to collect samples and submit for analysis. According to an emailed statement from Manitoba Provincial Court, “the matter was dealt with via a common offense notice (like a ticket) which does not go into the same registry as other charges in the Provincial Court”. Going on, the court official wrote that they “can confirm that on June 24th 2015 an acquittal was entered.”
Patrick Sullivan, of the law firm Meighen Haddad LLP, represented the Souris River Colony on the matter. WaterToday attempted to reach Sullivan for comment on the implications of this case on other Hutterite colonies, but we were informed by his assistant that he cannot comment.
Wipf says the Souris River Colony water is regularly tested in Winnipeg, and meets quality standards, so the colony leaders have chosen to leave the chlorine behind. “We should have the right to decide if we want to have chlorine in our water”, says Wipf. For now, it seems that the Prairie Mountain Health Region is leaving this site alone, with the Boil Water Notice remaining in effect.
A spokesperson for the Office of Drinking Water explained via email statement “Hutterite colonies and other private groups operating water systems, including church run camps, are regulated in the same manner as other water systems, with the classification under the Drinking Water Safety Act based on the number of service connections from the water main to buildings or standpipes. Water systems with 15 or more service connections are regulated as public water systems. Private water systems are defined as serving one private residence only. Water systems 2-14 service connections or a single building where water is served to the public (such as a restaurant) would be semi-public.”
As to our question, has this case changed the way the water safety is managed for Hutterite colonies and other religious based groups, the response from Manitoba water regulator is a simple and straightforward, “No.”
If you find yourself in the Elgin area, you may want to visit Souris River Colony for some legendary garlic sausage, processed and packaged here, sold under the label JK Meats.
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