UPDATE: Hedley residents will be without water for at least one week

Elevated levels of coliform and arsenic leave small town dry

  • Dec. 9, 2018 1:30 p.m.

It will be at least one week, and possibly longer, before Hedley residents can drink their water, according to the health authority.

A do not consume order was delivered to residents in the community Saturday, following a significant spike in coliform levels in the Hedley Improvement District Water System.

There are 240 people living in Hedley.

Rob Birtles, environmental health officer for Interior Health who also leads the small water infrastructure program, said under simpler circumstances a water boil advisory would have been issued after the December 4 test results were returned.

However because Hedley water also has higher than acceptable levels of arsenic – and has been under a water advisory notice for that issue since July – the water simply isn’t safe.

“It’s two issues really,” he said in an interview Sunday with Black Press, noting that concentrations of arsenic can increase if water is boiled for a long period of time.

He said the current arsenic levels in Hedley water are “just above” acceptable levels, 0.020 milligrams per litre compared to the allowable amount of 0.010 milligrams per litre

The dramatic increase in coliform levels could be the result of a break in a water line, he said. Alternatively the source could be a malfunction in a home or business that caused water to be reversed into the system.

The Interior Health samples taken on Dec. 4 at the pump house showed a count of 260 CFU per 100 millilitres. By comparison, the Nov. 6 sample at the same location showed a count of less than one.

“Obviously we need more investigation and further testing,” said Birtles.

The system will be inspected Monday, said Birtles, and will have to possibly be repaired, flushed, and then tested for two consecutive days.

Comments on social media, after Black Press reported the story earlier today, expressed concern that it took three days for the do not consume order to be issued.

However Birtles said it always takes three days to receive test results as the samples must be transported to a laboratory.

Birtles said that while coliform can be an indicator of e-coli, the samples tested negative for that bacteria. It means whatever is contaminating the water is vegetative.

He explained that coliform levels are tested, not for pathogens, but to indentify a problem with a system.

No one has reported falling ill from consuming the water, he said.

“The advice I give to people is if they feel ill they should seek help from their physicians.”

*************************

Residents of Hedley are being told not to drink the water coming out of their taps.

The Interior Health Authority has issued a do not consume order, meaning the water can not be made safe by boiling it. If you swallow the water you could become sick.

The warning comes after samples taken from the Hedley Improvement District Water System at the pump house and another sampling location on Scott Avenue showed unacceptable levels of coliform.

According to the Interior Health, samples taken on Dec. 4 at the pump house showed a count of 260 CFU per 100 millilitres. By comparison, the Nov. 6 sample at the same location showed a count of less than one.

Interior Health said the water should not be drunk, used to brush teeth, used to prepare food or be given to pets. The water can still be used for cleaning, watering plants or showering.


Steve Kidd
Senior reporter, Penticton Western News
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