When the tsunami struck at the end of last year and devastated parts of Asia that included India and Sri Lanka, Zenon Environmental of Oakville, Ontario, was generous enough to provide 54 of its Homespring water filtration systems to victims in the region, helping turn dirty water at a number of camps, schools and community areas into something drinkable. When the Gulf Coast was struck by Hurricane Katrina, Zenon and its retail partner, Maytag, each donated 40 of its Homespring systems to New Orleans, Baton Rouge and other parts of Louisiana. Again, they were installed in schools, churches and relief centres.
The Homespring system, which has been certified by the U.S. EPA recently as a “microbiological water purifier,” can be used to treat municipal water or untreated lake/well water and is typically targeted at cottage and country homes. “On municipal water sources, the system can provide chlorine-free, bottled water taste to every faucet in the home with the added peace of mind that it will continue to do so even in the event of a boil water alert or if pathogens are picked up along the distribution lines,” the company stated in a release.
The system uses activated carbon to pre-filter water and remove bad tastes and odours. After this first stage of filtration, it uses patented ZeeWeed membrane technology to filter out extremely small bacteria and viruses. It can produce thousands of gallons of water per day, and using existing inlet pressure requires no electricity to operate. These aren’t large municipal systems; they’re smaller systems that connect to water pipes entering homes and buildings.
Now a crisis at home. I read a statement from Prime Minister Paul Martin today that he will do “whatever is necessary” to bring clean water to Canada’s native communities, a response to a health emergency at the Kashechewan native reserve in the north of Ontario. Hundreds of residents are being evacuated from the reserve because of E. coli in the water, and the overuse of chlorine to combat it. As a result, residents there have gotten sick and have developed painful boils and rashes.
Will Zenon offer to help, much in the same way it helped people in Louisiana, India and Sri Lanka? After all, this is a health emergency in its own province — its own backyward –though not nearly on the same scale as the tsunami or Katrina.
It raises the question of where corporations draw the line with donations of products to worthy causes. Zenon runs a business and is responsible to shareholders, so at some point there is a limit to how much corporate charity it can engage in.
At the very least, the Martin government should be on the phone and working out a deal with a company such as Zenon. There are more than 100 reserves experiencing similar water-quality problems across Canada and these will need to be dealt with in time. But there’s no reason this particular crisis in an Ontario reserve can’t be handled swiftly, in a way that covers Zenon’s costs, builds more goodwill for a local company, and shows leadership from the government.
This may be an overly simplistic analysis of a more complicated problem. But maybe it isn’t.