The boil water advisory has ended in Prince Rupert. (Black Press file photo)

In Our Opinion: Down the drain

City of Prince Rupert announces its three-month water advisory was due to false positives

Was it the flu, beaver fever or the nocebo response (the opposite of the placebo effect)?

For three months Prince Rupert residents were told the water wasn’t safe to drink.

On Dec. 14, a water quality advisory was issued and we were told that higher than acceptable levels of microparasites that cause gastrointestinal infections were found in Prince Rupert’s tap water.

Many people complained about bowel issues, and beaver fever-like symptoms, cramps, nausea, but on March 15 the city told us that this whole time the water was fine to drink.

“We now understand that there is reason to believe initial results for cryptosporidium were false positives,” Mayor Lee Brain said.

Three months of waiting for test results is too long.

READ MORE: Microscopic parasite found in Prince Rupert water affecting thousands

Thoughts, beliefs and emotions can effect how humans heal, it’s called the placebo effect. Then there’s nocebo response. When a patient is given the dummy drug in a trial and they focus on the possible side effects.

How many of us joked about feeling the effects of beaver fever?

Businesses aren’t laughing.

READ MORE: Impacts on businesses under ongoing boil water notice

While grocery stores saw an increase in single-use plastic consumption, other businesses felt the sting of lost sales. Some cafés and restaurants had to pause selling specialty coffees, and one dentist office had to shut her clinic down for a day.

The water scare drove businesses to purchase their own water filtration systems as their faith in city management of community water literally went down the drain.

Time is money, and with the entire city boiling its water, using all that extra hydro isn’t cheap.

What is the purpose of local government if not to provide security and welfare for its residents — this includes providing water.

READ MORE: City of Prince Rupert lifts water quality advisory

The city released a 28-page After Incident Report stating: “The shared intention of both the City and Northern Health is to protect community health, and we are pleased to be able to report that there were no recorded instances of giardia or cryptosporidium related health cases at the local hospital.”

This event has also forced the city to improve its monitoring for protozoa, a micro-organism that feeds off organic matter.

What wasn’t mentioned in the report was that the city is still grappling with its overuse of chlorine to treat the water, which has caused higher than acceptable levels of byproducts, making the water more corrosive.

But that testing was done last summer, and the city was meant to take action by March 2019 — yes, this month. What we need is a water treatment system that doesn’t rely solely on chlorine — now.

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