A woman based in Red Deer County is looking for support in addressing water protection issues following the contamination of her family’s water well. Jody Young lives near the Red Deer River and an existing gravel mine owned by the County of Red Deer called the Lozynski Gravel Pit.
Jody reported her family’s well water was crystal clear when it was first constructed in 2010. She decided to get the water tested when she and her family noticed their water was going through periods of being murky 2020. In August of 2022, the Young’s determined their well water had been contaminated with lead, aluminum, and other minerals. Since then, they have been informed by Alberta Health Services (AHS) not to use their water for drinking, and cooking. It also remains unclear to the family if the water should not be used for showering.
Currently, the family hauls in five-gallon jugs of water for their use regularly. They use a reverse osmosis system in their kitchen sink for their pets but that water should be tested regularly for use. Their livestock rely on a different water well that has remained unaffected by the contamination so far, but continues to be tested as well.
After discovering their water was unsafe for use, the Youngs have discovered they have concentrations of lead and aluminum in their blood through their general practitioner. This has brought much stress to the family and concerns for their children’s wellbeing.
“It's caused more impacts than I could even have begun to imagine. Personally for myself, the anxiety that it's caused in regards to drinking water and just not even knowing if it's safe for us to be bathing in this water, because that hasn't been answered for us. The biggest thing for me is I want to protect my children and do the best I can for them to be healthy. It's this unknown of what the long-term consequences would be for my children for the time frame that they've been drinking this water,” said Jody.
After discovering the water well contamination, Jody took it upon herself to inform her neighbours about the situation.
“I thought from a public safety standpoint that they would reach out to let our neighbors know, but that I understand that wasn't something they do. Alberta Health Services, Alberta Environment, and our municipality were all made aware of the water contamination, but it ended up falling on us to notify our neighbors. I even went as far as picking up the sampling bottles and stuff for them so they could go sample the water,” explained Jody.
In addition to the issue of well water contamination, Red Deer County council has proposed a bylaw amendment to allow a new aggregate mining development within 165 meters of the Young’s home. If the water contamination is due to the mining operations in the area, Young wants to ensure proper measures are being taken to protect her family, her neighbours, the Red Deer River and nearby environments.
“In this situation we're in very close proximity to the Red Deer River, so whatever water is flowing underneath and down, is then flowing into the river, and potentially having a negative impact on the water, in the river, on those environments, and to people downstream,” she explained.
There was a proposed public hearing for the Red Deer County’s bylaw amendment set for February 7th, that the Youngs hoped to see postponed to allow time for the hydrogeologist they've retained to prepare a report about the water contamination as well as give Alberta Environment and Parks the time to conduct their investigation.
Yesterday, (February 24, 2023) Red Deer County voted on the adjournment. Red Deer County Mayor Jim Wood, Councilor Philip Massier, and voted against the adjournment but it went forward with support from other council members. Councillor Connie Huelsman initially voted against the adjournment but then voted in favour of the postponement. The public hearing has now been set for May 2, 2023.
“It's been stated that they are seeing our water contamination and the re-designation of the land beside us for another gravel pit as two separate issues. I don't see it as two separate issues. If you already have an issue ongoing with land, you shouldn't be looking at introducing new activities which may be furtherly negatively impactful if you haven't worked on sorting out the first,” said Jody.
Since beginning the investigation into the contaminates on the land, Jody estimates the Youngs have spent about $30,000 of their own money. The hydrogeological reviews and assessments are also estimated to cost $20,000. Jody has also recently launched a GoFundMe for support of her family for the technical and legal work required.
Through her investigations, Jody has found that other landowners have gone through similar challenges but she continues to push the issue further.
“It seems like I'm the one that's gotten the furthest to get some public awareness with this. I'm hoping at the very least maybe we can be a catalyst for some changes that are bigger than us and hopefully so another family and other lands aren't impacted in the same way that we've been impacted,” she added.
Young also encourages anyone who wishes to help her cause to write to the Red Deer County and let them know of their concerns and objections they may have on allowing another gravel pit on the land that is near both Young's property, the Red Deer River and an Environmentally Significant Area.