UPDATE (Friday, 5 p.m.)
The Town of Smithers has been working with Northern Health staff on developing strategies to address our current situation. A substantial disinfection of the two reservoirs and our water distribution system will begin next week. Residents will notice an increase in chlorine content in their drinking water mid to late next week.
The Boil Water Notice remains in effect while we work to ensure the safe delivery of drinking water.
Water users may bring water to a rapid rolling boil for at least one minute and let it cool before using, OR use bottled water, OR use an alternative approved source of water. Boiled or bottled water should be used for drinking, making ice, brushing teeth and food preparation.
UPDATE (Wednesday, 9 a.m.)
The samples collected on Sunday did not test positive for total coliforms. This is good news, and may indicate that previous positive results were due to isolated sampling concerns rather than a system-wide concern. Northern Health still requires two consecutive samples free of coliforms. Although we began chlorination yesterday, samples taken today are not yet considered valid for the purposes of lifting the Boil Water Notice. The Town will be collecting additional samples tomorrow (Wednesday) and expediting their transport to the lab in Prince Rupert. We should have results from the lab by Thursday evening. If those results are clear, they should provide Northern Health with sufficient assurance of the safety of our water system to lift the Boil Water Notice.
UPDATE (Monday, 12 p.m.)
Town of Smithers staff is adding chlorine to the water system. A smell may be noticeable. The boil water advisory is still on.
A boil advisory was issued for the Town of Smithers by the Town in conjunction with Northern Health Friday night.
Updates are available at interior-news.com or on the Town website smithers.ca. Anyone with questions can also call the Town at 778-210-0697.
The notice came in to effect due to recent consecutive water sample results containing coliform bacteria. Total coliform bacteria are said to not likely cause illness, but their presence indicates that the water supply may be vulnerable to contamination by more harmful microorganisms.
According to the Town, the notice applies to all residents with except the Smithers Regional Airport and residents in the Watsons Landing subdivision, as they are on a separate water source.
The notice said anyone using tap water should bring it to a rapid rolling boil for at least one minute and let it cool before using, or use bottled water, or use an alternative approved source of water. Boiled or bottled water should be used for drinking, making ice, brushing teeth and food preparation.
The notice was to remain in place until further notice. It was still in effect as of press time Monday morning. It would end after multiple samples taken 24 hours apart were submitted and the environmental health officer was consulted. Mayor Taylor Bachrach said in a list of frequently asked questions posted on Facebook that disinfection of the distribution system may be required.
The source of the problem had yet to be determined.
Some of Mayor Bachrach’s list of frequently asked questions:
When was it determined that this was an issue?
When consecutive samples indicated the presence of bacteria, a risk assessment was undertaken and the Town and Northern Health made the decision on Sept. 1 to issue a boil water notice.
How is the town notifying residents about the notice?
The Town issued a press release on Friday, September 1 at 9:53 p.m., in consultation with Northern Health. The notice was also posted on the Town website and on Town-related Facebook pages. Paper notices were posted late Friday evening at locations around town that have public water sources (e.g. arena, parks, etc). Northern Health has posted the boil water notice at healthspace.ca/nha.
If I am on a private well, does this boil water notice apply to me?
No, only water users on the Town of Smithers community water system, except users at the Smithers Regional Airport and Watson’s Landing. The Smithers Golf Course and Smithers Riverside Trailerpark are not on Town water and are not affected.
How frequently is our Town water sampled and tested?
[It] is sampled and tested weekly. In August 2017, 14 samples were taken and tested. Five of those showed the presence of bacteria (35.71 per cent).
Who conducts sampling and testing?
Trained Town employees conduct sampling … Samples are provided to an accredited lab in Prince Rupert for testing and analysis.
What is the water tested for?
Total coliforms and E.coli (no E.coli has been identified in any of the samples).
Have coliform bacteria been detected in Town water before?
It is a rare occurrence, but coliforms have been detected in the Town system before. This is the first time presence of coliform has exceeded the Northern Health threshold.
What is being done to resolve the issue?
The Town is working with Northern Health to collect more samples and have them tested and analyzed. We are also moving forward with a disinfection and flushing process, similar to what we conduct each spring.
If I am not feeling well, what should I do?
If residents experience new onset of symptoms of vomiting and/or diarrhea they should seek medical assistance. Residents should not be experiencing any symptoms related to the ingestion of municipal water in recent days, as the boil water notice is a precautionary step.
Is non-boiled tap water safe for pets?
As a precautionary measure, the same boil water standards should be applied to drinking water provided to pets.
Is water from Tip of the Glacier safe?
Yes. Tip of the Glacier provides additional treatment of municipal water (reverse osmosis, UV, ozone, and chlorination), and tests their water frequently.