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Drinking water unsafe at P.E.I. jail
Teresa Wright, The Guardian July 21, 2015
Unsafe levels of arsenic and uranium found in the P.E.I. provincial jail’s groundwater supply have forced inmates and staff to use bottled water for the last several weeks.
Arsenic and uranium are both naturally occurring in groundwater, which is P.E.I.’s only source of drinking water, according to George Somers, manager of the province’s drinking and wastewater division.
“It’s just part of the natural breakdown of the minerals in the bedrock, so depending on how long water has been in contact with it, it will pick some of this up,” he explained.
The vast majority of P.E.I. groundwater tested by the province contains only trace amounts safely below national guidelines based on lifetime consumption.
But the groundwater source at the provincial correctional facility, better known as Sleepy Hollow, was found to exceed those guidelines.
The consumption guideline for uranium is 0.02 milligrams per litre, and the jail tested at around 0.05, while the guideline for arsenic is 0.01 milligrams per litre and the jail tested positive for at 0.02 milligrams per litre.
There have been no reports of illness among inmates or employees, but they have been using bottled water for drinking and food preparation for the last several weeks.
Washing and showering has been allowed, as the guidelines are only for consumption.
Since these elements are naturally occurring in groundwater, they can’t be removed from the actual water source, Somers said.
“It’s not like a bacterial contamination or a hydrocarbon spill where you can clean up something or disinfect something, there’s no likelihood that the concentrations you see now will change over time.”
That’s why the province is now looking at options for a long-term solution.
The facility must either find an alternate water supply or treat the water once it has been removed.
“Several options are under consideration including enhanced water treatment, construction of new wells and connection to the Charlottetown municipal water supply, however the latter option will depend on talks with the City of Charlottetown,” said a spokeswoman for the Department of Transportation, Infrastructure and Energy.
“Until the problem is corrected, we will continue supplying bottled water to the facility.”
Somers says there are no easy ways to predict where arsenic and uranium will turn up in P.E.I. groundwater, so he suggests regular water testing.
“It’s almost random chance what wells will be affected and which aren’t, so the bottom line is that we recommend everyone, whether it’s a municipal utility or a facility like this or a private homeowner to test their water on a periodic basis.”
The jail has a standalone water supply, so this issue only affects the correctional facility.
There is no known contamination to any nearby homes or businesses.
‘You don’t know what you’re drinking’
Derek Montague, The Telegram July 21, 2015
Residents frustrated with quality of Happy Valley-Goose Bay water
Monty Rowe was in disbelief when he examined his water heater and found a part that was corroded, despite the appliance being only two years old.
“To me, that’s a brand new tank; two years old,” said Rowe. “You should at least get four or five years out of it.
“So there’s something wrong with our water system down here in the valley.”
Rowe is certainly not the first person living in the valley area of Happy Valley-Goose Bay to make such a complaint.
For years, people who live in the lower part of Happy Valley-Goose Bay claim appliances like water heaters and washers quickly become corroded and ruined.
Rowe’s kitchen tap is fitted with a reverse osmosis filter that makes the water much easier to drink. But the smell and taste of the unfiltered water, along with the state of his water heater, makes Rowe wonder about the quality of the water supply.
“I think we’re sort of drinking chlorine. It stinks; the water really stinks with chlorine,” said Rowe.
“(We need) some quality water. Something’s got to be done to make people think they can drink their water from the tap, not filtered ...”
The Happy Valley-Goose Bay Town Council recently announced a $3.8-million investment in upgrades to the community’s water system, over five separate projects.
In an interview after the investments were approved, Mayor Jamie Snook reiterated that, despite some concerns from residents, the town water is fit to drink. “We do know that it’s safe water; it’s tested extensively every day.” Snook said.
But Rowe says those who live in the upper portion of town, and who are on the Spring Gulch water supply, get more bang for their tax-paying buck.
“I feel the same way. Why should I have to pay water tax to supply Spruce Park and MOT with Spring Gulch water and we’re getting this kind of stuff (in the valley)?” asked Rowe.
Ann Earle says she’s concerned about the water after she found something unsightly in the filters of her reverse osmosis system.
Earle — who also lives in the valley — said she was about to change the filters recently when she noticed the filters, which are normally white, were covered with brown slime.
“I was floored ... I wouldn’t touch it, but it looked like it was slimy,” she recalled. “It’s like if you were cleaning fish. It was slimy like that.
“So I called my friend (who sold me the filter system) and he came and he said that was the worst he’s ever seen.”
The sight of the discoloured filters made Earle wonder what would be going into her body, if she didn’t have her own filtration system in her kitchen.
“It makes you wonder ... you don’t know what you’re drinking,” said Earle. These experiences are nothing new for Keith Legge, owner of D&L Appliance Services. He has 30 years of experience repairing all kinds of household appliances.
He has seen his fair share of rusted water heaters and washing machines in Happy Valley-Goose Bay. According to Legge, these types of appliances get corroded much faster when hooked up to town water, compared to appliances that are on the Spring Gulch system.
“The biggest thing is frontload washers ... bad corrosion on the metal parts,” he said.
Legge also said the repair cost for a corroded washer is anywhere between $800-$900, noting many choose to simply buy a new machine.
'Grasshole' shaming: New Facebook page targets Metro Vancouver water abusers
Staff Reporter, The Province July 21, 2015
Can’t figure out how to tell your neighbour in person to stop watering their lawn? Just publicly shame the “grasshole” online.
A new Facebook page called Grassholes was launched Tuesday, setting itself up as an online forum where people can publicly shame neighbours and their still-luscious green lawns.
“If you notices (sic) citizens of Metro Vancouver who choose green grass over having enough water to last the summer. Take a photo of the address and the water activity and call the (sic) a GRASSHOLE!!” reads the brief description under the Facebook page’s About section.
The newly launched page comes after Metro Vancouver announced this week it had boosted the region’s water restrictions to stage 3.
Under stage 3 restrictions, bans are in place for lawn sprinkling, filling pools, and washing cars and boats.
Previously, under stage 2 restrictions, residents were allowed to water their lawns on designated days and only for a set number of hours.
The fine for violating water restrictions is $250.
As of Tuesday, when the stage 3 restrictions were announced, Vancouver city staff had issued 1,428 warnings about water use so far this year. A total of 30 tickets had been written, most of them in the last two weeks as water concerns ramped up.
Messages to the Grassholes Facebook page and its anonymous creator have not been returned.
Winnipeg’s municipal workers support Shoal Lake #40
CUPE Manitoba July 21, 2015
WINNIPEG – The municipal workers who deliver Winnipeg’s water have joined those calling for the building of an all-weather access road to Shoal Lake #40 First Nation.
“It is unjust that the people who live in the community that sources our public water have been under a boil water advisory for 17 years and are often cut-off entirely from accessing clean water and public services” says Mike Davidson, President of CUPE Local 500. “As the workers who deliver this water to Winnipeggers, we feel that clean, public water should also be available to those who source it.”
On July 21, 2015, CUPE Manitoba officially endorsed the Shoal Lake #40 “Freedom Road” campaign by sending a letter to Chief Erwin Redsky indicating the support of Winnipeg’s municipal workers, as well as a letter to Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt urging him to act immediately to improve the living conditions of the people of Shoal Lake #40.
“We applaud the City of Winnipeg and Province of Manitoba for committing to help build a road to Shoal Lake” said Kelly Moist, President of CUPE Manitoba. “Everyone seems to acknowledge the urgency of this situation, except for the federal government.”
While the federal government refuses to commit funding to help Shoal Lake #40 gain access to potable water and services via an all-weather road, Canadians from all levels of civil society are taking initiatives to support the community – from petitions, to writing letters to Members of Parliament, to fundraising.
CUPE Local 500 has been outspoken against the privatization of water and wastewater treatment, and is a staunch advocate for continued investments in public water infrastructure.
“We all benefit from the clean, potable water provided to us by Shoal Lake” said Davidson. “It is unacceptable that this community should suffer on our behalf.”
Shoal Lake Facts
Shoal Lake #40 First Nation is located at the Manitoba-Ontario border south of the Trans-Canada highway. Shoal Lake has provided Winnipeg’s drinking water since 1919 via a 153 km aqueduct.
The population of Shoal Lake #40 is 270, and the community has been under a boil water advisory for the past 17 years. The community spends approximately $100,000 per year importing bottled water, despite supplying 700,000 Winnipeggers with water from the nearby lake and reservoir.
Currently there is no all-weather road access to the community, which must travel via boat during the summer, or cross the ice in the winter to fetch basic supplies and drinking water. At least 9 community members have died taking this journey.
The cost of building the all-weather “Freedom Road” to connect the community to the Trans-Canada highway is estimated at $30 million. All levels of government have committed $1m towards a road plan. The Province of Manitoba and the City of Winnipeg have each committed to contribute a share of the cost towards the project, but the federal government has not committed, leaving the community at risk.
CUPE believes that water is a basic human right. There are still far too many communities across Canada under boil water advisories, and CUPE will continue to push for safe, public drinking water for all.
CUPE Local 500 represents approximately 4,200 municipal workers in Winnipeg.
Anti-corruption unit raids five Montreal-area locations in water meter scandal
The Canadian Press July 22, 2015
MONTREAL - Quebec's anti-corruption unit searched five locations around the Montreal area on Wednesday as part of its investigation into the city's water meter scandal.
Sources said officers visited the home of Claude Dauphin, borough mayor of Lachine, as well as the residence of Sammy Forcillo, the city's ex-head of water management.
Dauphin was head of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities between June 2013 and last month.
Anti-corruption unit spokeswoman Anne-Frederick Laurence did not confirm the locations searched but added no arrests were expected.
She said 50 officers were involved in the raids.
Montreal awarded a $355-million water meter contract to a consortium in 2007 but cancelled the deal after reports surfaced of alleged embezzlement and other irregularities.
Wednesday's raids were just the latest conducted by anti-corruption officers in connection with the scandal.
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