Those living in Prince Rupert have been under a boil water advisory, and officials now say there doesn’t appear to be an end in sight for the city’s 12,000 residents – at least not anytime soon.
The boil water advisory, which has been in effect since December 14th, comes after water samples tested positive for unacceptable levels of two microscopic parasites known as cryptosporidium and giardia. As for what caused the water to become contaminated? A combination of this past summer’s drier than usual weather followed by debris-pushing storm surge. While the risk of becoming ill from drinking the contaminated water is low, individuals such as children, seniors, and those with weakened or compromised immune systems are considered to be at a higher risk of developing an infection as a result. However, because it is still possible to get sick from drinking the contaminated water, the advisory was put into place as a precautionary measure.
Some of the symptoms associated with cryptosporidium and giardia contamination include:
• Abdominal pain
• Mild fever
It is important to note that it is still possible to become infected but not develop any symptoms. In fact, it’s not unusual for symptoms to start anywhere from 2 to 10 days after exposure to the parasites, and the symptoms can then last anywhere from a few days to one or two weeks – even longer in some cases. If you live in or have recently visited Prince Rupert, came into contact with the water, and developed any of the aforementioned symptoms as a result, it is recommended that you seek medical attention.
Whether you’re drinking it (and even your animals), washing the dishes, or brushing your teeth, the water you use needs to be boiled and you should do so for at least one to two minutes to ensure that the parasites are killed off. While it’s not considered harmful to bathe or shower in the contaminated water, younger children can accidentally swallow water, so parents should opt for giving them sponge baths until the water has been deemed safe enough. If you happen to have a home filtration system, health officials are also warning against using them, as they will not be effective in eliminating the parasites and restoring water quality. Boiling water is a must.
As for how long city officials say they expect the boil water advisory to stay in place, that remains uncertain. Water samples are sent to Vancouver for testing, which takes a minimum of a three day turnaround – and, with the holidays, that turnaround is unfortunately taking a bit longer than the length of time it normally would. Both the City and Northern Health will also continually sample and monitor the water supply, and only when the bacterial components have lowered to acceptable levels will they lift the notice and deem the water safe again.
Visit www.princerupert.ca for updated information.