Day 1: August 17, 2020

Prince Rupert has notified residents of a Water Quality Advisory. See below for the text of today’s emergency alert.

Hopefully there will not be a repeat of the 6-week boil water notice of 2018-19. As before, regardless of the reason for the advisory, the city should be prepared to provide access to clean water – especially for the city’s most vulnerable residents.

As before, the city should anticipate these kinds of advisories, especially given our wet-coast location and the city’s ongoing infrastructure project. Emergency plans, that ensure everyone gets water during an advisory or notice, should already be in place.

As we learned in 2018-19, clean water is essential. Everyone in Prince Rupert has a human right to access clean water on an equal basis. Water should not be reserved for those with money or power.

Whatever the reason, whenever there is a water quality advisory equal access to clean water becomes limited for some but not others. That fact has nothing to do with pipes, dams, or rain. It can only be addressed by our priorities – as a community. Will we prepare for everyone? Will we provide access to all, even when there is an emergency or storm?

People who can afford filters and bottled water have more access than those who cannot. That’s simply not fair and Prince Rupert can and should do better. Once again, we call on the city to provide emergency alternative access to clean water for those who need it – whenever there is an advisory or notice and regardless of the reason for the restricted access to clean water.

While a precautionary boil water notice may seem small to some people, for anyone who is struggling to make ends meet, or who is medically vulnerable, it is not small. That’s why the city should be proactive in its approach during this Water Quality Advisory and should always be prepared in case another one soon follows.

Hopefully, with speedy and accurate testing in place, improved communication with residents, and proper plans and preparations the city will do better this time than it did in 2018-19. Following that boil water notice and water advisory, the following recommendations were presented to the city (it should also be noted that the city did not implement these recommendations):

(1) Recognize access to drinking water as a human right which must be fulfilled by the municipal government, especially for the city’s most vulnerable residents and even during a Boil Water Notice or Water Quality Advisory.

(2) Launch a broad, extensive, independent, and transparent investigation into the city’s preparations for, and responses to, a 46 plus day Boil Water Notice and Water Quality Advisory that includes looking into measures provided for vulnerable residents, the health and safety affects of the situation, and any economic impacts.

(3) Ensure that the investigation is conducted by an independent expert on water quality and public water infrastructure who gathers feedback directly from those most vulnerable to restricted access to drinking water during an extended breakdown of the public water system. The full results of the investigation should be made public.

From today’s notice:

Please note that due to high turbidity levels detected in the drinking water supply relating to the ongoing heavy rain event, a Water Quality Advisory has been issued for City of Prince Rupert water users. Until further notice, Northern Health recommends that children, pregnant women, the elderly and persons with weakened immune systems drink boiled water at this time. A water quality advisory is the lowest level notification, and is issued as a precautionary measure. At risk individuals should boil their water for 1 minute prior to consuming until the Advisory is lifted. Go to www.princerupert.ca for additional information.