Christine Sorenson, president of the BC Nurses’ Union, raises concerns about the quality of water at the Prince Rupert Regional Hospital. (Shannon Lough / The Northern View)

Nurses’ Union president told not to drink the water in Prince Rupert

Public health nurse, Christine Sorensen, raises concerns about the quality of water at the hospital

The BC Nurses’ Union is weighing in on the boil water notice in Prince Rupert after city officials announced it could last for another week.

Christine Sorensen, public health nurse and president of the BC Nurses’ Union, said she is concerned about the impact this boil water notice is having on the acute care system in Prince Rupert.

When she was in Prince Rupert for a meeting in August she was told then not to drink the water.

“Even then nurses were raising concern, not only about the colour, the sediment that’s in the water, the taste, the odour, but even then I was told not to drink the water. Nurses have been bringing this forward to me for a long time,” she said.

Boil water orders are always a concern, especially when clean drinking water and sanitation is necessary to meet public health standards. She said that people with compromised immune systems are what concern her the most. She was informed that patients in the cancer care unit at the hospital have also been advised not to bathe.

Previous water issues at Rupert hospital

Water quality at the hospital was under scrutiny earlier this year when Northern Health conducted a water quality study after muddy water was found in some of the taps.

READ MORE: Muddy water found in taps at Prince Rupert hospital prompts investigation

Then in August, the filtered water system at the patient care unit broke down, and the health authority said it wouldn’t be replaced it until the ongoing water study is complete. As of mid-December, the situation hadn’t changed.

“I’m actually shocked that the medical health officer has not paid more attention to this issue and actually worked more closely with the city to rectify this sooner. It actually sounds like it’s getting worse rather than better,” Sorensen said.

The city provided its response to Sorensen’s comments.

“To directly address the contention that the cty has known about this issue for months, this is simply not the case,” said Veronika Stewart, communications manager for the City of Prince Rupert, in an email.

She explained that the city’s water is regularly tested by Northern Health and the notice regarding cryptosporidium and giardia was issued on Friday immediately following notice from Northern Health that tests came back with levels that are higher than acceptable.

“As we have explained, this issue is tied to naturally occurring weather events, as well as the use of our lower elevation secondary source at Shawatlan lake during water infrastructure construction.”

The city has applied for funding to developed a water treatment facility.

“This application was completed in conjunction with Northern Health to address issues like the high concentration of tannins – which contributes to the yellowish colour of the water. These infrastructure upgrades would occur regardless of this particular notice, and are part of the city’s asset replacement program,” Stewart said.

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