"OTTAWA - Canada's lakes and rivers are awash in harmful contaminants, but new documents warn the federal government's murky understanding of the problem is putting the country at risk.
Senior bureaucrats reached that conclusion in a pair of internal reports on contaminants and excess nutrients in freshwater.
The officials warned that Ottawa needs to know much more about the contaminants before it can tell how dangerous they are, what happens when they mix together, or where to focus clean-up efforts.
'There are significant gaps in the understanding of contaminants in groundwater in several areas which hinder the advancement of effective risk assessment and management activities,' says one of the reports.
The reports were produced by working groups of high-ranking civil servants from several departments that the government formed two years ago to study water issues.
The Canadian Press obtained two of the groups' 'draft discussion documents' under the Access to Information Act. The reports, dated December 2008, were only released last month."
Steve Rennie reports for the Canadian Press November 9, 2010.