Friday, January 11, 2019

Prince Rupert's Boil Water Notice: 29 Days at 100 degrees celsius ... and counting

Update: At 3:30 today, the City of Prince Rupert advised that the latest test results still indicate that the Boil Water Notice will need to continue (see here)


For those wondering what the anniversary present to commemorate four weeks of a Boil Water Notice might be, may we suggest a 24 pack of bottled water ...

Prince Rupert residents will reach an unanticipated milestone of sorts at 4:21 PM this afternoon, crossing over a full four weeks since the City of Prince Rupert first advised of the need for residents to boil their water for home use.

It was four weeks ago today that the city advised that the source of the water at Shawatlan Lake, currently the city's only option for a water supply, had failed the City's and Northern Health's water testing protocols, with unacceptable levels of cryptosporidium and giardia recorded.

At the time and in subsequent updates that would follow, the city would outline how a "dry summer followed by a storm surge event resulted in debris in the water supply" conditions which the city explains have created the issues which have contributed to the notice

Since that time, three further official updates have been delivered through the city's website and three expanded presentations have come from Mayor Lee Brain through his social media Facebook efforts.

Talking points that for the most part repeated much of the first notice, with little indication as to when the Boil Order Notice will be lifted.

The most recent of the Mayor's Facebook essays did note that discussions with provincial officials were planned for sometime this month to discuss the long range plans for a water treatment facility.

Mr. Brain also advised that additional testing was now part of the protocol with Northern Health, though how many additional tests that have been included as part of that regimen, or how often they take place was not detailed.

As for any of the previous or current results, other than the news that we can't drink the water yet, the city has not posted the accounts of each test since the Boil Order was put in place.

And as listeners to CBC Radio's Daybreak North found out earlier this week, the City does not have any plans at the moment to make those results available on their website, or any other civic forum.

During her conversation with Daybreak North host Carolina de Ryk, the city's Communications' officer Veronika Stewart outlined the city's views on releasing the results to the public:

"We haven't had notice from Northern Health that we can lift it yet. So, because if we share that we have gotten one positive result,  that might lead people to not take the necessary precautions. 

We aren't sharing individual test results because one could be an outlier. So we're just waiting until we receive those multiples in order to  lift it"

While it's laudable for the city to be extra cautious towards the notification process, there does seem a simple remedy towards disclosing the results so residents can have some understanding if the situation is improving, staying much the same, or possibly getting worse.

Should the city post the results (with some easy to understand terminology) to the website, simply colour coding them should provide enough indication as to the status of the water supply and the dangers that it may pose.

Red results would be for those returns that are not to the standard that the city and Northern Health have set, while Green results would indicate some positive trends.

So far it would appear that a larger supply of red ink would be required as opposed to green.

A notice atop the results on the website indicating whether the water is safe to use would surely advise residents as to the status of the supply, while the results would offer transparency on the frequency of the testing and the results that were delivered.

As the weeks moved forward with boiling water becoming part of the routine of the community and shoppers making the rounds looking for the best deals on bottled water; the topic of the city's water woes pretty well took over the narrative of the community, making for some spirited and at times angry debate through social media.

Beyond the social media feedback, interest with the ongoing water troubles has provided for some interesting community action as residents exhibit some of that extended patience that the city has asked for.

In Port Edward, the District opened up its water supply for Prince Rupert residents to come and fill up their travel jugs at the District's SaniDump facility, while a pair of sisters went so far as to offer their outdoor faucet as another Port Edward supply option.

The willingness by Port Edward to lend a helping hand for its neighbour was a welcome bit of good neighbourliness, offered up despite some pretty heated rhetoric from the Prince Rupert Mayor and Council over the Ridley Island Tax concerns back during the days of the fall 2018 Municipal election cycle.

With Prince Rupert now heading into the one month mark, one resident within the city's limits has decided the time has come for some community engagement.

As we noted on Monday morning, Tom Kertes has organized a grass roots quest to bring the community together on the issue, hosting a kitchen conversation this Sunday at 2PM to explore what options the community can come up with to bring to the city to help address the situation.

Mr. Kertes expanded on his plan for Daybreak North , and should the Mayor and City Council members want to get a bit of a sense of the pulse of the community, listening in to his interview from Wednesday morning would probably be an instructive thing.

His observations, questions and concerns are similar to what has been found through social media and make for a checklist of sorts as to the kind of engagement that residents are looking for from those that they have elected to office.

Council may also want to take a look at the letters to the editor page from this weeks edition of the Northern View, where one submission from Glenn Boychyuk channels the frustration from some in the community who are looking to Council for much more in the way of details and some planning to address the current issue as it continues on.

In a month where we have all been patiently awaiting those consecutive all clear test results, or further instructions from civic officials. With the exception of the Mayor's Facebook addresses, the elected members at the municipal level, along with MLA Jennifer Rice have for the most part been rather silent on any possible steps that the city, or province might be able to offer.

This coming Monday night marks the first public city council session since the Boil Water Notice was issued and what the Mayor has described as a technical report will be delivered by staff as part of Monday's proceedings.

The night will also offer the opportunity for residents to hear the thoughts from those council members that have been off the radar for the last four weeks.

On a normal regular council night the audience in the public gallery at City Hall chambers is sparse, the meetings for the most part short and dealing with issues that rarely seem to capture much in the way of attention.

However that may not be the case come 7PM Monday evening.

After four weeks of little change in the situation, few additions to the city's narrative on the issue and continued calls for patience, this first session for 2019 may make for a lively night a 424 Third Avenue West.

You can review all of the notes to this point related to the city's Boil Order Notice from our archive page here.

For a wider overview of City Council discussion themes see our Council Discussion page.

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

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