Saskatchewan

Boil water emergency hits 40,000 in Prince Albert

Health officials have issued an emergency boil water order for the city of Prince Albert, Sask., after tests found dangerous pathogens in the city's water supply.
Prince Albert's water treatment facility has not been working properly since Friday. (CBC )

Health officials have issued an emergency boil water order for the city of Prince Albert, Sask., after tests found dangerous pathogens in the city's water supply.

The order comes from the medical health officer for the region, Dr. James Irvine, who described the city's water as a health hazard.

"The presence of pathogenic microorganisms, namely giardia and cryptosporidium oocysts in the public water supply … [constitute a] health hazard," Irvine noted in the boil water order, issued Tuesday afternoon.

Anyone using the city's water for consumption must take precautions, including:

  • Boiling all water used for drinking purposes for at least one minute, at a rolling boil.
  • Boiled water should be used for: tooth brushing or soaking false teeth; dishwashing, unless sanitized in another fashion; food or drink that will not be subsequently heated; ice cubes.
  • Food service companies must also ensure all water that will be consumed by the public is boiled and to make unoperational all public drinking fountains supplied with water from the public water supply.

According to city officials, the pathogens were found in water samples collected Saturday, one day after a boil water advisory was issued.

Officials characterized the level of contamination as relatively low.

"This occurrence should not represent a significant risk of a widespread waterborne disease outbreak at this time," the city said in a news release Tuesday. "There has not been a significant increase in incidences of gastrointestinal illnesses to date."

While the city said they don't expect people will get sick, they added that anyone with severe or long-lasting stomach illness should get medical attention.

A spokesman for the city said printed notices were being delivered to mailboxes in every home and apartment building, to ensure everyone in the city was aware of the boil-water order. 

The city is blaming the contamination on equipment failure.

The city believes a faulty valve in the water treatment plant let some water that was not yet ready into the distribution system sometime late on Feb. 2.

Operators noticed something was amiss and started to investigate, leading them to discover the faulty valve.

That led to an initial boil water advisory on Friday and further testing of the water.

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