New Brunswick

Saint John closes 4 parks, underscoring health hazards of floodwaters

The City of Saint John has closed four public parks because of flooding and health and safety concerns.

EMO says it will be well into recovery before anybody can go into the water

EMO officials in the Saint John area are warning people to stay away from four parks and from floodwaters in general, since they're contaminated. (CBC)

The City of Saint John has closed four public parks because of flooding and health and safety concerns.

Robertson Square, Tucker Park and Lower Shamrock Park, all in the north end, and Dominion Park, on the west side, are all closed until further notice.

They were contaminated from the oil, they were contaminated from the water, and they had to be brought back and decontaminated.- Joe Armstrong, Saint John EMO

"We're treating this water as contaminated," said Joe Armstrong, deputy director of the Saint John Emergency Measures Organization.

"Nobody's sure what's in it. There's no doubt some [raw] sewage in it."

As Armstrong spoke during a flood update Wednesday at Robertson Square Park on Bridge Street, he noted the brown colour of the floodwaters behind him. 

The water may contain parasites and viruses, and even emergency workers aren't taking any chances, he said.

"We did have one of our fire crews [Monday] night who retrieved a 200-gallon oil barrel in the Acamac Backland area and brought it to shore. They were contaminated from the oil, they were contaminated from the water, and they had to be brought back and decontaminated, fresh gear. "

The floodwaters likely contain raw sewage and there's no way to know how deep the water is, said Joe Armstrong, deputy director of the Saint John EMO. (CBC)

Floodwaters in the province are gradually decreasing after reaching "historic levels"  that demolished homes and displaced more than 1,100 residents.

The water level in the Saint John region Wednesday is 5.4 metres, down from its peak of 5.7 metres Monday night. Flood stage is 4.2 metres.

Levels are expected to remain above flood stage for the next few days, but it could take months before life for residents affected by the unprecedented flooding returns to normal, officials have said.

The contamination will also be slow to ebb.

"It's going to be … well into the recovery period before we would ever recommend anybody to be in the water," Armstrong said. "So for now, we are strongly trying to encourage people to stay out of the water for their safety."

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