Prince Edward Island's Green Party is calling on the provincial government to immediately make residential water testing free.
That's something opposition Liberal MLA Hal Perry has been working on since before the pandemic began in 2020. He plans to introduce legislation this fall, and the Progressive Conservative government says it will support the move.
Opposition environment critic Hannah Bell says the cost of getting the tests done as often as they're recommended is too high.
"Just for your basic water quality [test] which looks at bacteria in water, it's $95 plus HST, and if you want to add on chemical testing, it's another $45 plus HST," she said.
"So your basic test is going to be $135-$140 plus HST and there's also some extra ones on top of that. So it can very quickly get to $200 and that's for every time you get a test."
It is currently up to homeowners who own their well to test their water for bacteria. Such private systems are more common in rural areas.
Perry lives in Tignish, where the town just lifted a boil-water order. He says he hears frequently from homeowners who say they can't afford the tests.
They will put it off and put the money into something else. And that's kind of dangerous when you don't really know what you're drinking out of your well. - Hal Perry
"There are many people out in my district and right across the Island who say that the cost is too great for them," Perry said.
"They will put it off and put the money into something else. And that's kind of dangerous when you don't really know what you're drinking out of your well."
'We haven't seen any action'
The P.E.I Environment Department recommends homeowners drinking well water get it tested at least once a year or whenever there's some indication something may be wrong with the water.
The P.E.I. government has said it's looking at ways to make the testing free.
But Bell said heavy rains and flooding seen on the Island recently mean they should act faster.
"We haven't seen any action," she said. "And, you know, especially with some of the more recent and frankly more frequent weather events, that can that can directly impact things like water.
"I think it's something that we should really think about as a way to support Islanders."
Environment Minister Steven Myers says the government is committed to doing something on the file.
"We don't want the cost to be an impediment to safe drinking water," he said. "And it will give us a better statistical background if we can get more people testing water, what we actually have going on in our water system across the Island."
He said the government will support a bill on free water testing which Liberal MLA Hal Perry plans to put forward in the legislature this fall.
"[Perry] has meet with staff and our office on different occasions now working the way through some of the kinks that they may have in the act, make sure that it's going to work for everybody," Myers said.
"We're going to be on board."
Myers estimates free residential water will cost the province about a million dollars a year.