Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Council members express faith in upcoming Staff review of recent Boil Water Notice process

Tom Kertes from Community for Clean Water spoke at Council Monday night
outlining his thoughts on the recent Boil Order Notice and future steps on water issues 

Monday night provided for the first opportunity for the public to share some thoughts on the recent six week Boil  Water Notice in the community, with the city's Committee of the Whole session the venue for public comment to the theme.

The Boil Order Notice, which was downgraded to a Water Quality Advisory on Friday has stirred up emotions at times in the six week period and led to the creation of a local group called Community for Clean Water to serve as an advocate for those impacted by the 40 plus days of the recent water issues.

Mr. Kertes who is one of the organizers of the community group Community for Clean Water delivered a presentation on Monday night that outlined his group's concerns related to the recent Boil Water Order that was in place for six weeks in the community.

The main focus for their concerns was to speak for those that were at the most risk and who did  not have the resources to access clean water during that period.

He observed how the last month had been an introduction to local government and how he had left the last council presentation somewhat disappointed, noting that over the last two weeks members of Council had reached out to him to hear more of his concerns and that has reassured him as to how the community could work together.

"At the last meeting I left feeling disappointed, but in the two weeks since then what I can say, is to  Councillor Niesh thank you for your recommendation that we move away from Facebook and just start off with a direct letter to Councillors. And to those councillors who responded and have met with me face to face, Councillor Skelton Morven thank you for your thoughtful reflection I appreciate that and to Mayor Brain, thank you for your invitation to meet with you in person. Because I think that's what we need to think about is how can we work together as a community"

As for the water issue, Mr.  Kertes  delivered three points from his organization on the water issue.

Among the observations how access to water is a human right, as well as a look at the approach that the city is taking to seeking out grants towards improving the city's water issues.

Noting that there is no magic wand to solve the issues, he then outlined how there is a need for what he called guard rails to help residents towards a preparedness plan for the city's infrastructure program.

He outlined how he believes there is a need for a plan to be in place should the city face the same situation again, calling for more transparency and a better process for sharing of information for the public in those instances.

Mr. Kertes called attention to the Community for Clean Waters proposal (see here) for Council to consider, highlighting how information should be posted to the city website first and with as much information as possible.

As for any review of how the city handled the recent Boil Water Notice, Mr. Kertes observed how it should be more than an internal review, calling for an outside expert on water quality to provide for the review to help rebuild the trust for the community on water issues.

Towards the results of the review, he suggested that there should be a reach out to those residents who were most impacted by the situation; as well as to consult with the community at large including business, health authority, institutional and the vulnerable residents themselves.

Following the twelve minute presentation, the Mayor thanked Kertes for his presentation, with Councillor Nick Adey adding a few comments of his own  towards the many points and what he described as good ideas that were included in Mr. Kertes review. Adding that the recent conversations with him had proven to be very productive. 

As for the nature of the review ahead, the councillor offered up belief in his faith in city staff to conduct the review into the last six weeks.

"I do feel from my perspective that the city staff who will be responsible for reflecting on how things went will do that with great integrity and forthrightness and I have a great deal of faith that good things will come out of that process as well"

Councillor Cunningham also echoed some of the same points as Councillor Adey, adding that he believes many of the concerns  raised have already been recognized, he also added that he believes the integrity of staff is beyond reproach and how they will compile the after action report that Council will review. 

"I think that lessons have been learned from this, and that the only way to learn a lesson is to make a mistake unfortunately"

Mr. Cunningham also outlined how he had met with some of the vulnerable groups in the city following his discussion with Mr. Kertes and noted that some community groups had reached out to them during the course of the six weeks. To wrap up his comments he also thanked Mr. Kertes for his presentation.

The topic of the recent water woes also came up later in the Committee of the Whole session, as Dave McKeever, the President of the Prince Rupert and District Chamber of Commerce spoke in praise of the city's handling of the six week situation.

"I would just like to commend Council and city staff for doing such a wonderful job on this water issue and working so closely with Northern Health in solving this and getting it going. It's very clear to me that you're my friends and my neighbours and that you are looking after us just as well as you're looking after yourselves and your own families." 

You can review the full presentation to Council from the City's Video Archive staring at the one minute mark.

For more notes on the Community for Clean Water proposals see their website here.

Further notes from Monday's Council session can be found from our Council Timeline feature here, while a wider overview of City Council discussion themes is available from our archive page here.

To return to the most recent blog posting of the day, click here.

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