The boil water notice in effect that was posted Sept. 20 has been downgraded to a boil water advisory, the City of Prince Rupert announced on Oct. 18.
According to the Water Quality and Health Council, a boil water advisory is a public statement issued by a utility no later than 24 hours after learning of a microbial water quality violation, such as excess levels of indicator organisms.
“It is important to emphasize that an advisory does not necessarily mean that the tap water is contaminated. Rather, it means that the water could be contaminated, and that the public should take precautionary measures, especially the elderly, very young, or those with a weak immune system. In contrast, a boil water notice is issued when contamination in a water system is confirmed. Advisories and notices remain in effect until publicly lifted by the utility (typically for at least 24 hours), and following water quality test results that demonstrate the tap water is safe to drink or use,” the organization said on its website.
Currently, Northern Health recommends that children, pregnant women, the elderly and immunocompromised individuals continue to drink boiled water at this time. The advisory is due to high turbidity levels detected in the drinking water supply relating to the ongoing heavy rain events.
In response to residents wanting to know when the water will be safe, Mayor Lee Brain told The Northern View he has committed to begin communicating more clearly with the public on the progress of the water infrastructure upgrades and Woodworth dam replacement until its completion. Moving forward, the public will also have a centralized area to find current information for ongoing projects starting when his newly appointed city manager, Rob Buchan, takes office next month.
The city’s tap water will remain at risk for further notices until 2023, at the latest, when water infrastructure upgrades and the Woodworth dam replacement are completed, Brain said.
“We want to have a page on our site where you can go for any of the current projects we’re working on and have a current updated list. I want to have those updated on monthly basis so that everyone can see,” he said. “I think the town deserves to have that level of communication. And I think that’ll go a long way with increasing our transparency.”
In addition, the mayor has asked Buchan to present a monthly report at city council meetings specifically for the city’s water situation with status updates to the ongoing water project.
The project, initially stated for completing in early 2020, is behind schedule due to two main factors: the rainy environment and the supply-chain delays to essential construction materials caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We have to build a dam in the middle of a rainforest with concrete. It’s challenging, because you need to wait for weather windows and things like that. So, when there’s really bad weather, we are delayed until we can get the weather we need to do the job,” Brain said. “When COVID hit, we had some big delays on the global supply chain, so that that basically delayed our ability to complete the dam on time.“
“I’ve been told by our operations team that the dam, and connection back to the primary water supply, will be no later than April 2022 (phase 2), but most likely before that,” Brain said. “The entire project, including water treatment, is expected to be completed in 2023.”
The whole project is about 80 per cent complete, Brain said. Phase 1, the construction of a new access road and waterline to the to the dam, has been completed. Phase 2 and Phase 3 are presently being completed simultaneously. Phase 2 represents the construction of the new dam, which is about 30 per cent complete, and Phase 3 is the replacement of the underwater water lines coupled with the water treatment facility.
Brain has been working on tackling the water issue since his first day in office in 2015, back when Christy Clark and the BC Liberals were in power, and said the recent uptick in complaints from city residents hasn’t bothered him.
“I do my best to communicate to the residents. I think there’s a lot of people that do understand what’s happening,” Brain said.
“There are people that I would say are following along. Most times, when it comes to things like water, people don’t think about that until there’s a problem, right? And so, when there is a problem, people naturally are going to be afraid, and they [will] want answers,” he said.
The current advisory remains in effect until further public notice from the Northern Health.
There is currently no evidence of increased risk to water users, and additional testing is being conducted to monitor water quality and adjust recommendations accordingly, the city stated.
The city asks owners of public facilities to post water quality advisories at all sinks or drinking water fountains accessible to the public. Alternatively, public fountains and taps should be turned off.
Norman Galimski, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince Rupert Northern View