As Prince Rupert enters another week under the boil water notice, acting Mayor Wade Niesh has a firm message for residents as the city continues to try and resolve the problem.
“This is not something that Facebook will solve for us,” he said.
Sitting in for Mayor Lee Brain, Niesh gave a presentation on the topic in what was the city’s first opportunity to publicly address the issue in front of residents on Jan. 14.
At the end of his presentation, Niesh commented on the furor that has taken place on social media, saying that the frustration there should be directed toward provincial MLAs and federal MPs for assistance.
“I feel that we’ve done our part as far as planning for this and getting a third and final phase done, but the reality is that this project is a $30-million project and our budget every year is $35 million so if we have to pay for this all on our own it will be a long-term project,” he said.
“We wish the public would help us in this situation and write as many letter or emails or talk to your federal or provincial representative to put some pressure on them to help us through the situation.”
Given the uproar the notice has sparked on social media, council chambers were relatively empty as Niesh gave the city’s explanation for both the long- and short-term causes of the boil water notice.
The short term causes — contamination of the city’s current water supply in Shawatlan Lakes. Niesh said the city has been communicating to Northern Health, awaiting multiple clear tests before the water is declared safe to drink.
As for the long-term causes, Niesh answered questions as to why the city had no water treatment facility like Metlakatla and Port Edward that would have filtered out the cryptosporidium and giardia parasites that triggered the notice.
Niesh said ensuring a secure, long-term source of water for the city took priority over building water treatment infrastructure.
The city is currently in the process of upgrading its 100-year-old Woodworth Dam, which would ensure its water security. Later during the meeting, Coun. Barry Cunningham repeated that upgrading the water lines and dam were of greater importance than building a water treatment plant, and had to be replaced first.
“That would have been counterproductive if you built a real nice water treatment plant and then your 100-year-old dam or 100-year-old pipe collapses and then you’ve got this wonderful treatment plant with no water to come to it,” Cunningham said. “The sequence we’re doing it in has to be done this way so that at the end of the day it’s continuous.”
During discussion, Coun. Gurvinder Randhawa asked how close the city is to having the boil notice lifted. Robert Long, the city’s manager, said while staff is optimistic it will receive more clear samples in the future, the final decision is up to Northern Health.
“That’s their call,” he said. “But I think that we’re definitely headed in the right direction.”
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Matthew Allen | Reporter
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