British Columbia

Prince Rupert water safe to drink for 1st time in 3 months as city lifts water quality advisory

Prince Rupert residents can once again drink from their taps after more than three months of concern over water safety. The city says the test showing high parasite levels may have been a false positive.

Samples showing high parasite levels may have been a false positive, city says

All Prince Rupert residents have been told to boil their drinking water for at least a minute. (Colleen Connors/CBC)

For the first time in more than three months, it's OK to drink Prince Rupert's tap water without first boiling it.

The city has ended the water quality advisory after getting approval from Northern Health.

In mid-December, it issued a boil water notice after tests showed unacceptably high levels of cryptosporidium and giardia, parasites that cause gastrointestinal distress and fever.

Test results questionable

Test results showing high levels of parasites in Prince Rupert's tap water were likely a false positive, according to the City of Prince Rupert.

"Algae is really easily misunderstood to be cryptosporidium in some cases, and that's kind of known in the scientific community ," said Prince Rupert communications manager Veronika Stewart. "Based on what the experts have told us after evaluating our water results, that's what they believe has happened."

Stewart said the lab that originally tested the city's water didn't have the ability to properly identify the parasite.

The city began sending water samples to a specialized microbiology lab in Alberta, which found no signs of cryptosporidium and acceptable levels of giardia.

However, the city is unable to confirm whether the first test was a false positive.

"Unfortunately, the original slide that had the first test result was discarded," Stewart said.

Learning experience

Prince Rupert resident Tom Kertes said the City of Prince Rupert needs to do a better job handling water safety concerns in the future.

"It doesn't matter if it was a false positive," said Kertes. "The effect is, for the whole period of the notice and the advisory, our most vulnerable community members had to worry about drinking clean water."

Kertes is calling on the city to develop a plan to ensure all residents can easily get clean water during any future boil water notices.

The city says access to clean water is one of the issues being examined in its after-incident report.

Prince Rupert stores struggled to keep bottled water stocked when the boil water advisory was issued. (CBC)

With files from Betsy Trumpener

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