Perhaps no other issue is as polarizing in Wakefield as the matter of the pristine water that gushes out of the spring on Valley Drive. The issue is not whether the water is good – ask pretty much anyone, and they’ll say it’s water sent down from the heavens; the issue is whether or not to charge money for it.
The Low Down has received letters to the editor in several editions that discuss this topic, but La Pêche Mayor Robert Bussière sides with those who think the spring should be monetized for the municipality’s gain.
“The price of [bottled] water is more than gas, so the potential revenue could help [us realize] all our dreams,” said Bussière, who assured La Pêche residents that they would still be able to access the water for free. For everyone else, Bussière said the water could be bottled and sold, with revenues going towards community projects or to offset the $10,000 to $15,000 per year the spring costs the municipality to maintain.
“The spring is being paid for by La Pêche residents for people from all over. Is that normal?” asked Bussière. However, “we are not there yet,” said Bussière: the municipality must wait for the results of a comprehensive hydro-geological study which is looking into where the water comes from.
A 2010 citizen’s study into who uses the spring found that over 3,000 residents stop by and fill up year round; the numbers increase in summer, when at least 2,000 cottagers stock up on their way to their weekend getaways. A smaller percentage take the water to Ottawa to use for wine and beer making, and some restaurateurs serve it to their customers – The Daily Grind being one haunt that offers the aqua. But The Daily Grind’s owner, Wakefield’s own Mike White, is not some big bad Ontario wolf who is stealing the precious resource. White was an active member of the Save our Spring (SOS) group in 2010, which was launched to protect the spring from potential contamination due to highway construction.
“All I’m doing is taking some extra … to provide people with good clean water,” said White, who doesn’t charge customers for the water he picks up at the spring three times per week. “It would flow whether I put my jug under it or not,” he said. White prefers the taste of the spring water over Ottawa tap water because it doesn’t have fluoride and chlorine. “I really like water and I don’t like drinking chemicals,” he said.