Salt Concerns In Shelburne’s Water Put to Rest

Following a presentation by the Ontario Clean Water Agency during a Shelburne Town Council meeting held April 23, 2018 regarding a high level of sodium in Shelburne’s water supply as by reported by Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health in March, the Shelburne Freelancer asked for further clarification. Shelburnites who are concerned about their high blood pressure and worry about consuming Town of Shelburne Water will find the following interesting. Three very important sources generously weigh in on the Salt in Shelburne’s water and can reassure Shelburne with scientific facts that Shelburne water is safe.

First up, Shawn Zenter Manager, Health Protection with Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health explained how the high levels of sodium alert came to be. “Sodium is classified as an Aesthetic Objective (AO) in table 4 of the technical guideline. Here is the link to that guideline  Refer to both pages 13 and 14. As an aesthetic objective the level of risk from the health unit’s perspective is low. Aesthetic objectives are established more for taste, odour, colour as opposed to health effects. For sodium the guideline is 200 but as you can see in the snip any result, > 20 requires the water operator to notify the Medical Officer of Health so that physicians are aware. In the case of Shelburne they are required to re-sample if the water is > 20 and they did this. There is no corrective action required if the sodium level is > 20 on the re-sample. Sampling for sodium is only required roughly every 5 years. In cases where water is tested and it is above a bacteriological indicator (as opposed to and aesthetic objective) then again the Medical Officer of Health must be notified and the water operator has to take corrective actions to address the adverse result.  This is not the case for sodium other than a re-sample.”

Karen Lorente, Regional Hub Manager I Georgian Highlands I Ontario Clean Water Agency (OCWA) was also asked to weigh in on follow up information, further assuring Shelburnites of the safety of Shelburne’s water commenting, ” The following information should provide clarity for readers of The Shelburne Freelancer.  Water from all municipal wells are combined in the Town’s water tower for distribution to the public. By blending the water from all wells, the sodium levels are brought down to an acceptable level, as required by the Medical Officer of Health. The notification issued was strictly for the Town’s information as part of OCWA’s reporting guidelines – at this time, there is no risk to public health. The municipal tap water in the Town of Shelburne is safe to drink and falls within the Medical Officer of Health’s acceptable sodium level limits.

Salt and Sodium are the same thing. The wells for the Town of Shelburne are checked every five years for sodium as per the current sampling protocol. The wells are monitored every 72 hours and tested weekly for all requirements set out within the Safe Drinking Water Act.  Sodium does not have a requirement, only a notification limit. This limit has been put in place for individuals that are on sodium-restricted diets. As mentioned within the presentation, one well sampled was over the notification limit of 20mg/l. This was well one and the level was 69mg/l. All water for each well is  combined  in the water tower before entering the distribution system. This means the average sodium content in the water for the Town of Shelburne is 17.92mg/l, which is below the notification limit.”

Shelburne Chief Administrative Officer, (CAO) Denyse Morrissey, further confirmed information citing Shelburne’s water source in safe to drink providing information about the salt used in Shelburne during out winter months, “With regards to road salt:

  • The salt that the Town uses for road and sidewalk application is still Sodium Chloride that is treated (called THAWROX).
  • The treatment allows  it to stick to the traveled portion of the road surface in contrast to standard road rock salt which has a tendency to bounce, roll or blow off the road into the natural environment.
  • This treatment also reduces the amount of product used vs straight rock salt.
  • The treated salt is mixed to a rate of 92% sand to 8% salt.
  • The sand allows for traction, while the treated salt allows for the melting factor

 OCWA is our operation partner firm. I have at this time also attached the fact sheet as provided by Dufferin County Health Department. This was posted on our web site with the required notice regarding the elevated sodium levels at Well 1 for those on sodium restricted diets. On March 15, 2018 the Town of Shelburne was advised that untreated water testing for Well 1, indicated there is elevated sodium in the water at this location.  Additional information was posted on our facebook and web site on March 20, 2018: “We appreciate the questions and concerns from residents as a result of this information being posted and are providing more information to reassure you.”  Please visit The link for similar information from York Region is:

The regulation that applies is extracted from this fact sheet is: The Ontario Drinking Water Systems Regulation 170/03 under the Safe Drinking Water Act requires reporting to the local Medical Officer of Health when sodium levels in public drinking water supplies exceed 20 mg/L or more. At this point, the local Medical Officer of Health informs local physicians, as such information is intended to help persons on sodium-restricted diets control their sodium intake.”

For more information on salt, the effects on the water system, vegetables and salt used on roads during winter, visit the following links.


Many thanks to Shelburne CAO, Denyse Morrissey, Shawn Zenter, Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health and Karen Lorente, Ontario Clean Water Agency. For more information, contact is listed below.

Denyse Morrissey,

Chief Adminstrative Officer B.A; M.P.A. I Phone: 519-925-2600 ext 226 I Fax: 519-925-6134

Town of Shelburne I 203 Main Street East, Shelburne ON L9V 3K7 I


Shawn Zentner, MPH, CPHI(c)

Manager, Health Protection

Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health

160 Chancellors Way

Guelph ON N1G 0E1

1-800-265-7293 ext. 4230

Karen Lorente

Regional Hub Manager I Georgian Highlands I Ontario Clean Water Agency (OCWA)

30 Woodland Drive, Wasaga Beach, ON  L9Z 2V4

T: 705 429 2525 I C: 705 715 6865 I F: 705 429 7967 l