Edmonton

Janvier residents return home after evacuation, but they can't drink the water

A "do not consume" advisory remains in effect and boiling the water doesn't make it safe for consumption, the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo cautioned residents in an incident update Tuesday.

Residents left voluntarily on Jan. 27 after a chemical mix-up at the water plant

Some Janvier residents voluntarily evacuated after a chemical mix-up at the water treatment plant. (CBC)

Janvier residents returned to their community Tuesday after a water shutdown due to a chemical mix-up prompted an evacuation.

But a "do not consume" advisory remains in effect and boiling the water doesn't make it safe for consumption, the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo cautioned residents in an incident update Tuesday.

Some 147 evacuees returned to the community in northern Alberta after being gone for a week.

Shirley Montgrand, 49, said her brother, Peter Janvier, hasn't returned. Janvier is quadriplegic and had to evacuate to Fort McMurray's hospital because it was the only place that could accommodate him.

He is still waiting for an ambulance to take him home. His sister said people need answers as to what happened on Jan. 24 at the water plant. 

"I just hope to God that people don't sweep it underneath the rug and forget it," Montgrand said. "No. This is something you don't forget."

Residents left voluntarily on Jan. 27 after a chemical mix-up at the water plant caused the regional municipality to shut off the water, leaving 113 homes without running water — 107 in the Chipewyan Prairie First Nation community and six in the hamlet. 

The Chipewyan Prairie First Nation led the evacuation, with the municipality offering support with busing services and security to help with the relocation.

The municipality announced on Monday it would turn the water back on. With full water pressure returned, the community has fire protection, however the "do not consume" advisory remains in effect. 

Scott Davis, the municipality's director of emergency management, said water samples have been sent to Alberta Health Services for analysis. 

As of Tuesday evening, residents could use the water but they can't drink it, cook with it or give it to their pets.

Water samples are being sent to the First Nations and Inuit health branch of Indigenous Services Canada, according to the municipality.

"The cleaning is completed," said Scott Davis, the municipality's director of emergency management.

The municipality is waiting to hear back from AHS about what needs to be done before people can drink the water. 

But there's no estimate on when the results from the samples will be ready. 

Incident still under investigation

Davis said the municipality is still investigating the incident "to ensure that we understand how this happened and prevent a reoccurrence."

No one drank any contaminated water, said Davis. 

This is not the first time the municipality has had an issue with its water plants.

In 2017, sodium hypochlorite was accidentally transferred into the tank holding polyaluminium chloride at the Fort McMurray water treatment plant.

That created chlorine gas that was released into the air. 

The municipality is facing four environmental charges for the 2017 incident. 

The municipality said in a statement that "to the best of our knowledge" those same chemicals were mixed in Janvier. 

Janvier is about 400 kilometres northeast of Edmonton. 

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