Ongoing boil water advisory leaves Hamilton residents frustrated
By Matthew Van Dongen, originally posted on September 26, 2016
Frustrated Brigadoon Drive residents boiled tap water through the weekend after a second suspect water sample from the neighbourhood spurred a new round of city tests.
Public health officials issued a rare precautionary boil-water advisory for about 240 homes on the west Mountain last Wednesday based on bacterial contamination found in a water sample taken from a neighbourhood hydrant.
City officials had hoped test results would clear up concerns about water quality by late Friday — but one out of six hydrant samples came back with “a very small amount of nonharmful bacteria,” said water director Andrew Grice Saturday.
“In order to verify the safety of the water we will need two consecutive back-to-back clean sets of test results,” he said.
That meant restarting the testing regimen from scratch — and because it takes 24 hours to confirm each batch of tests, the earliest the boil water advisory could be lifted is Monday.
Residents expressed more frustration on the weekend about the lack of news than the actual inconvenience of boiling or buying water. The city has tweeted and posted website updates about the boil-water advisory, but those updates didn’t explain why testing had to continue through the weekend.
“They haven’t provided a lot of actual information for us, which is frustrating,” said Dion Rodrigues, one of a few neighbourhood residents to tweet pointed questions at the city over the weekend.
Judy Wass hadn’t heard about the latest round of tests.
“I don’t really use the Internet. I was expecting to get a call, or something,” said the Brigadoon resident, who noted she appreciated the city’s original automated telephone message warning her not to drink the water last week.
Wass said she is drinking bottled water, but has a sick dog and is worried about whether the water is safe for animals to drink. “The more they tell us, the better,” she said.
Coun. Terry Whitehead said he feels like city staff are doing “everything they can” to ensure the water is safe and end the advisory as soon as possible, including late-night water sampling.
He added the city also offered to deliver jugs of water to at least two families “with special medical needs” in the neighbourhood.
The original test in the neighbourhood was conducted after an odour complaint, but no water sample taken to date has actually turned up harmful bacteria, Grice said. Even samples showing benign bacteria, however, must be taken seriously in case harmful micro-organisms are hidden by the result.
Hamilton public health has urged affected residents not to use their water for drinking or if they must, to heat to a rolling boil for at least one minute before drinking or using it to brush your teeth, wash fruits and vegetables, wash dishes or make meals.
Public health has several other procedures and precautions for residents to take at hamilton.ca/.