The boil water notice in Prince Rupert may be over, but the city’s residents and administration are still reflecting on its causes and what could have been done to be better prepared.
For the first time since the city’s boil water notice was put into effect, Prince Rupert residents had a chance to formally address council and voice their opinions on the issue at the city’s committee of the whole meeting on Jan. 28.
Only two individuals who attended the meeting spoke on the water. The first was Tom Kertes, a volunteer community organizer and founder of Community for Clean Water.
Kertes said that access to clean drinking water is a basic human right and that there are those in the community — the elderly, infants, poor and those with compromised immune systems — who did not have access to it during the boil water notice.
“Drinking water is critical and when it’s not accessible, then people who can’t access it, their dignity and their entitlement to equal respect is being denied,” he said.
Kertes said that the city lacked “guardrails” or a back up plan for the possibility that its water source may be effected during the vital infrastructure upgrades, “…to make sure that there’s measures for those people to get the water that they need.”
Kertes submitted a clean water preparedness plan, which outlined possible targets to ensure water would still be readily available to the most vulnerable in the population.
Those targets included: creating a plan to make sure water is made available to those who need it; putting that plan into place and having transparent, accurate and timely information updated regularly on the city’s website; and an independent assessment of the city’s process by an expert on water quality and accessibility.
“I think that’s important because I think one thing that person could provide is the trust that needs to be rebuilt when infrastructure like this doesn’t work,” Kertes said. “Through no fault of the city, it’s just when your water doesn’t come out clean, trust is eroded and I think building that trust should be a priority.”
After Kertes’s presentation, councillors Nick Adey and Barry Cunningham made brief remarks. Adey thanked Kertes for his presentation, and although he acknowledged that Kertes’s ideas were well thought out and positive, he felt that the internal review by city staff would be done with “forthrightness and integrity.”
“I have a great deal of faith that good things will come out of that process as well,” Adey said.
Cunningham agreed with Adey’s comments, adding that the city had learned lessons over the past six weeks.
“The only way you learn lessons is sometimes making mistakes unfortunately,” he said.
Later in the meeting David McKeever commended city staff, thanking them for the work they had done to resolve the boil water notice.
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Matthew Allen | Reporter
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