I have been keeping up with the news regarding Fraser Health Authority's order for the City of Chilliwack to chlorinate its drinking water.
Two weeks prior to FHA meeting with Chilliwack council a number of us in White Rock questioned FHA about the double standard they have, ordering White Rock's drinking water, sourced from an aquifer below the Semiahmoo Peninsula, to be chlorinated while allowing Chilliwack's water to remain unchlorinated. We asked why. We don't believe we had anything to do with FHA's order to Chilliwack as things like this take time to prepare and deliver. We may be wrong though.
Like Chilliwack, we have water that is obtained from an underground source, no surface water, and once in 40 years we had a boil water advisory in August 2010. Despite the fact that FHA designated the risk to the water here as low for the last three years and an extensive testing program that was conducted throughout 2011 by FHA where no E. coli or other coliforms were found in over 400 tests throughout the city, an order to chlorinate came down from the authority.
We have heard the media parrot FHA's comments warning people about Walkerton in a vain attempt to create fear, something a public health agency should avoid at all costs.
Our local paper printed a letter from an "expert" on drinking water also referring to Walkerton when talking about White Rock water. And just today Dr. Lem from FHA was quoted in the Vancouver Sun again mentioning Walkerton in relationship to Chilliwack's water.
I have read the report by Justice O'Connor on the inquiry into the Walkerton tragedy. I wrote the following in response to the letter writer in White Rock which I feel is just as appropriate to Chilliwack. Replace White Rock with Chilliwack in the following response:
It is disingenuous to associate the tragedy that happened in Walkerton with White Rock's water as the letter writer did. The inquiry into the Walkerton drinking water tragedy was very clear about the circumstances that led to the deaths and injuries to many of Walkerton residents. What people should know is that the Walkerton water system was a chlorinated water system. One of the water wells, Well #5, was considered to be the source of E. coli. This well was shallow, 15 metres, unlike White Rock's wells, which are almost 10 times deeper, and was located in a farmer's field which only a few weeks prior to the outbreak had fresh animal manure spread on the field.
The ground below the surface was made up of fractured rocks which allowed surface water to move quickly through and into the aquifer. The well had a history of problems going back more than 15 years. The persons responsible for maintaining Walkerton's drinking water were not qualified and had not informed the health authorities of the presence of dangerously high levels of coliform when they were aware of it. It was found that there was a deliberate attempt to cover it up. One person went to jail for their involvement in Walkerton's tragedy. To suggest that the qualified men and women who maintain the drinking water system in White Rock would, like a few Walkerton employees, deliberately cause deaths and illnesses is shameful.
Phil Le Good White Rock