British Columbia

Prince Rupert to conduct review as city downgrades boil-water advisory

City should develop a preparedness plan, citizen group says

Posted: January 26, 2019

Prince Rupert was under a boil water advisory since mid-December. (CBC)

The City of Prince Rupert, B.C., has lifted a boil-water advisory that left 12,000 residents without potable tap water for six weeks, and says it's working on how to prevent a similar occurrence in the future.

The city says Northern Health Authority gave approval to downgrade the notice to a water quality advisory, which means some risk remains for sensitive individuals.

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Under a water quality advisory, newborns, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems are still encouraged to boil tap water for one minute before consuming it.

The city says residents who still see milky or sediment-filled water should run cold water, preferably through a bathtub or laundry sink taps, until it clears.

Group criticizes city response

The boil-water advisory was put in place after a dry summer followed by a storm surge caused a spike in levels of cryptosporidium and giardia, which cause intestinal illnesses.

The length of the advisory prompted a citizen advocacy group to criticize city officials for not having a preparedness plan in place.

"I felt like their plan was to just wait and hope and I don't think that's good enough," said Tom Kertes, an organizer with the group, Community for Clean Water.

Cryptosporidium is a leading cause of waterborne disease among humans in the United States, according to the U.S. Center For Disease for Control. (U.S. Centers for Disease Control)

Right now, the city draws water from a secondary source at Shawaltans Lake because of ongoing construction upgrades to its 100-year-old dam.

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In August, the city applied for funding to implement a two-phased water treatment system and replace a submarine line carrying potable water from two nearby lakes.

Kertes is calling on the city to conduct an independent investigation into its handling of the advisory.

"There's a lot of work to be done to think about what went right, what went wrong, what lessons learned can we use from this experience so that it doesn't happen again," said Kertes.

City to prepare report

Members of Community for Clean Water will present recommendations to the Prince Rupert city council at a meeting on Monday.

Veronika Stewart, communications manager for the city of Prince Rupert, said the city had an emergency response plan in place, took measures to notify the public and conducted extensive testing of water.

Stewart said city staff will work with the health authority on a report that will look at best practices in other communities in case of similar conditions in the future.

The information will be presented at a council meeting next month.

With files from Audrey Mckinnon and Ryan Patrick Jones