Meaford residents ordered not to consume municipal water; Collingwood water not at risk, says director

A fire at a car sales and service business in Meaford has resulted in a continuing state of emergency for Meaford, where residents are still drinking bottled water only. 

Johnny B’s Automotive and Car Care Shop burned to the ground on May 25 in a massive fire producing black smoke seen for several kilometres in all directions. There were several explosions during the fire, which burned overnight. Meaford Fire Department was aided by The Blue Mountains and Inter-Township fire departments. 

A video posted to the municipal website on May 29 featuring Meaford Mayor Ross Kentner offered sympathy to the owners and employees of Johnny B’s and promised the community the ad-hoc emergency control group was working on the situation. 

Kentner’s message indicated the health unit and provincial government is involved in the ongoing emergency situation. 

The municipality declared a formal emergency after the fire because of ongoing environmental concerns such as contaminants leaching into the ground surrounding the property and residue from the site flowing into the water if there are weather changes. 

Residents are still being warned not to consume municipal tap water. On Monday, May 29, the municipality brought in a large order of bottled water to its temporary water distribution and refill centre set up at the St. Vincent and Meaford Community Centre (151 Collingwood Street West). Families can get a case of bottled water and may also or instead bring their own bottles and containers to fill at the community centre. Assistance is also being provided to individuals who are not physically able to pick up water.

For the first day immediately following the fire, the municipality shut down its water treatment plant and asked residents to conserve water so the reserve supply didn’t run out. It has since restarted municipal water service, but with the do-not-consume order. 

There is ongoing testing by the health unit, and Kentner said in his video message it will be the results of those tests that determine when the “do-not-consume” order can be lifted. 

The Meaford Fire Department has also issued a fire ban for the municipality because of the ongoing work required at the Johnny B’s fire site.  

Municipal staff also caution residents against swimming in Georgian Bay off the Meaford shoreline because of the potential for contamination in the water. 

In Collingwood, the director of public works, engineering, and environmental services, Peggy Slama, said there’s no indication Collingwood’s source water has been compromised. 

“As Meaford is well outside our intake protection zone … there is low risk of contaminants causing an issue reaching our intake,” said Slama in an email to “Also, Collingwood’s water treatment plant utilizes ultra-filtration, and a very high level of contaminants, bacteria, and viruses are removed.” 

Slama confirmed the town does also monitor raw water quality from the bay before it is treated through the water plant, but testing is done quarterly. 

“At this time, we have done a risk assessment and concluded at this time this is a low-risk event to have effect our raw water quality,” said Slama. 

Town of The Blue Mountains staff have also been monitoring the town’s water intake zone in Georgian Bay and have determined the water is still safe from contaminants, so there’s no impact on The Blue Mountains’ drinking water, according to Shawn Carey, director of operations. 


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