St. Vital boil water advisory lifted
About 12,500 households were affected by boil water advisory
A boil water advisory has been lifted in southeast Winnipeg, meaning residents and businesses no longer need to take precautions with their tap water.
The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority announced at 6 p.m. Wednesday that the precautionary advisory, which affected some 12,500 households in an area within southern St. Vital, is no longer in effect.
The provincial government issued the advisory on Tuesday night after finding positive results of low-level E. coli bacteria in three area samples.
Tests done on a second batch of water samples from the area came back negative for bacteria on Wednesday.
In an email, the WHRA said the negative result "confirms that the water meets all health and safety water quality regulations and guidelines."
Health officials said it is "extremely rare" to see a positive water test result in Winnipeg, and there was a good chance the test results were false.
City councillor wants answers
St. Vital Coun. Brian Mayes said he was made aware of the advisory after it was issued late Tuesday.
"After all of the problems with the brown water, and I'm being told that's an entirely separate problem, but we've got to get some answers about what's going on with the city water," Mayes said earlier on Wednesday.
"Any time you're telling people to boil water that's a serious issue, and it's an inconvenience. So people are going to be upset. I don't blame them. So we got to get some answers."
While city officials said the water is safe, even with the boil water advisory in effect, some St. Vital residents weren't convinced.
Heather Pollock, who lives in St. Vital, said she learned about the advisory through a friend on Facebook late Tuesday night — hours after she had been cooking with the tap water and drinking it with supper.
"The first emotional response is, 'I think I feel it! I think I feel sick already!'" she said with a laugh.
"I don't, but I don't know how long it takes for the symptoms to start, so it'll be concerning for quite a while."
Health officials said there has been no report of anyone getting sick from the water to date.
Restaurants had to buy bottled, canned drinks
Meanwhile, some restaurateurs fear the damage from the advisory may already have been done.
David Thompson, who runs a Smitty's Restaurant in St. Vital, said he was forced to order canned sodas and bottled juice during the morning rush.
"Our business will be down probably thousands of dollars by the time the day is done. Customers don't like to stay and take a chance with that kind of stuff going on," he said.
Bruce Gouriluk, the co-owner of Big Guys Ranch and Saloon on Meadowood Drive, said he also had to buy canned and bottled pop because he could not use the restaurant's soda tap since it uses city water.
Gouriluk said it's frustrating, coming on top of citywide problems with brown water.
"There wasn't a lot of coverage about the yellow water through the media or anything," he said. "You heard a little bit here, a little bit there. As a consumer, just with the yellow water I worried, so I wonder about now we have this problem. Is this connected or is this all part of a broken-down system?"
The manager of the McDonald's on St. Mary's Road in St. Vital, Diana Kurjewicz, told CBC News her restaurant was not serving coffee, tea or fountain beverages. Only canned beverages were available, she said.
Meanwhile, the Louis Riel School Division said classes were being held as normal on Wednesday, but it was bringing water into schools.
Board chair Hugh Coburn said bottled water and drinking cups were being sent to 11 of the division's schools, and students were told not to refill water bottles.
The Division scolaire franco-manitobaine also brought in bottled water for about 700 of its students.
City insists water is still safe
While the boil water advisory was in effect, the city insisted that the water is still safe.
Kelly Kjartanson, manager of environmental standards for the City of Winnipeg, said the original test results showed high levels of chlorine, and that's good news.
"Any microbiologist will tell you, if chlorine is high, the bacteria should be killed. That's why, in our minds, these are false positives," he said.
"Just because the bacteria counts were positive, it does not mean the water is unsafe."
Kjartanson said 39 samples from areas throughout Winnipeg were taken as part of a routine testing required by province.
He said two out of three of the samples from the St.Vital area came back positive for E. coli, which is from human or animal waste.
Kjartanson also said he believes the tests were "false positives," which was confirmed by the second set of results expected Wednesday afternoon.
He said it's possible the employee who took the water sample used a bottle that was contaminated, or that the lab made an error during testing.
Kjartnason said he doesn't believe the positive results have any connection to the brown water that has plagued Winnipeg homeowners in recent months.