Rivers residents are under a boil water advisory as a result of a plan that chooses the lesser of two evils during a historic cold winter.
With temperatures continuing to sit well above seasonal normals and frost levels in the ground dipping to approximately three metres, council made the decision to bypass several residential trouble spots in order to prevent pipes from freezing.
Bypasses are open prior to residential water meters, using the continual flow as a way to combat water line freezes and breaks. The flow, however, means an extreme amount of water is being fed to the water treatment plant not giving it the adequate time to be treated properly.
“It’s a precautionary measure to ensure the safety of our citizens,” Mayor Todd Gill said. “No water would be a hardship where a boil water advisory is an inconvenience, but at this time we’re unable to guarantee that our water is treated to the provincial standards.”
It has been a challenging winter for many communities’ water infrastructure. Winnipeg, Brandon and Virden are just a few of many communities that have endured a spike in broken water mains.
Rivers isn’t the only community under an advisory either.
There are currently 68 communities under a boil water advisory, with an additional nine under a water quality advisory.
Todd said the water in Rivers isn’t contaminated, it’s just too cold and the flow rate is too high to treat properly.
The community has already had between 80 to 100 residential services freeze up, prompting the decision to run the water 24 hours, seven days a week until the weather warms up and the ground begins to thaw.
Rivers draws its water into the treatment plant from Lake Wahtopanah on the Little Saskatchewan River, and from there it is distributed to the community, ending up in the lagoon where it is treated and released back into the river further downstream.
“We don’t wish to waste water because it challenges you on the other end at the lagoon,” Gill said. “But we have to keep the thing flowing and on a year like this you have to do what you have to do.”
A provincial spokesman with Water Stewardship said the advisory was issued on the recommendation of the Office of Drinking Water.
“It has been difficult for the water treatment plant to keep up with this additional demand, and turbidity of the water leaving the plant is now exceeding the provincial standard for this type of water treatment plant of 1.0 (Nephelometric Turbidity Units),” the spokesman said.
Turbidity is the cloudiness or haziness of a fluid caused by particles that are typically invisible without a microscope.
For the type of water treatment in Rivers, turbidity levels below 0.3 NTU are considered normal and acceptable.
“Community staff are working to address the problem,” the spokesman said. “The advisory will be rescinded when turbidity is brought back down to normal levels and the Medical Officer of Health determines that the water is safe to drink.”
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