Valcartier, Quebec — The quality of the Valcartier Garrison water table has been monitored through rigorous testing for some years. One of these monitoring tests revealed traces of a new contaminant, perchlorate, in well no. 4, which supplies 20% of the base's potable water.
Following the detection of this contaminant in the groundwater, base authorities immediately informed Health Canada, the Quebec public health branch, Environment Canada, the Quebec department of the environment, the municipality of Shannon and Quebec City.
Water is fit for consumption
According to Major Éric Lefrançois, officer in charge of engineering, 0.11 micrograms per litre of water was found in the Garrison's well no. 4. Since Canada does not have standards to monitor perchlorate, the Garrison referred to US regulations. In California, where the law is the strictest, a quantity of 6 micrograms per litre of potable water is acceptable. Thus, a sample of 0.11 micrograms is not a health concern.
Maj. Lefrançois also notes that well no. 4 supplies 20% of the Garrison's potable water. The other 80% comes from the main well, well no. 7. "When the entire water system is tested (both wells together), no traces of perchlorate are found." According to experts at Health Canada and the Quebec public health branch, the water is of very high quality and is fit for consumption.
For soldiers who, during exercises, fill their canteens in the small rivers and streams in the training areas, Lieutenant Marie-Claude Gagné, public affairs officer at Valcartier Garrison, notes that "perchlorate is a salt that dissolves quickly in water, is barely absorbed by the soil and so does not remain at the surface. The chances of drinking perchlorate in surface water are very slim."
To minimize the risk of exposure to bacteria, it is always preferable, unless there is no choice, to drink water from streams with a good current, where rocks naturally filter the water.
Perchlorate is the main ingredient in the propellant used in some rockets such as the CRV7s on F-18s. It is also used in the production of fireworks and matches. The Department of National Defence used this product in greater quantities 30 years ago. Today, Defence Research and Development Canada - Valcartier uses very little perchlorate: only 3 to 4 kilos in 2004. A process that recovers more than 99% of perchlorate particle residue has been in use since 2000.
Article and photos by Sgt. Cédric Hamel