Levels in Prince Rupert drinking water May point to Issues that are province-wide

by BCZ

Levels in Prince Rupert drinking water May point to Issues that are province-wide

by BCZ

by BCZ

Leona Peterson does not drink the water out of her tap anymore. The only mum says she had been warned about lead from the water by a neighbor as soon as she moved into the subsidized Indigenous housing complex where she resides in Prince Rupert, a city of almost 12,000 people in northwestern B.C.”She said,’There’s lead in our water,'” Peterson said.” ‘Don’t doubt it, simply begin flushing.'”

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B.C. Health Minister states direct contamination a’significant’ issue with older homes

B.C. Health Minister states direct contamination a’significant’ issue with older homes
For years, Peterson’s eldest kid’s daily job was preparing the family’s water for cooking and drinking by”flushing” the pipes — running the tap water for five to 10 minutes — before filling a four-litre jug.Now, Peterson buys large jugs of water rather. Even after it has flushed she does not expect the water out of her tap.Reporters from the University of British Columbia, as a part of an investigation by a national consortium of universities and media companies, such as Concordia University’s Institute for Investigative Journalism, Global News and Star Vancouver, tested water samples from Peterson’s kitchen in December. An accredited laboratory measured 15.6 parts per billion (ppb) of lead in her water three occasions Health Canada’s guideline.Water from her kitchen tap also exceeded federal guidelines for direct in tests obtained in February and July. “To find out it’s as large as it is scares me,” she said. “This can be lead, this is a toxin. “Peterson is not alone. It may corrode pipes and plumbing, leaching metals into drinking water. Despite guidelines recommending monitoring and control, some municipalities aren’t taking steps to combat testing or water for lead in the tap in homes. Residents are being left in the dark concerning the protection of their water.For years, that was the case in Prince Rupert.The city and Northern Health, which provides health care in northern B.C., are taking steps to minimize vulnerability to lead-contaminated drinking water.

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“Regrettably there was a time period where lead was generally used as part of the plumbing infrastructure.”

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Officials with the City of Prince Rupert say there are no municipal lead service pipes, providing water to homes or businesses, as there are currently in Toronto, Montreal and Regina, for instance.The water itself”tests well under” Health Canada’s guideline before it strikes the land , and the city says it”is not responsible for water support infrastructure on private property. “Prince Rupert’s pressurized water does increase the risk of lead leaching from plumbing fixtures and solder, which can be used to join pipe, in older homes. That’s a problem the town’s projected water treatment plant will help address. The city has told residents to protect themselvesby installing filters, substituting plumbing that may contain lead or flushing pipes before the water runs colder before ingesting.

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With these suggestions, the city mailed a flyer to every household in the spring of 2018. After undertaking its own lead testing, the city issued another press release and video, in which Mayor Lee Brain reminds residents to take steps to reduce the risk of direct exposure this summer. “We take the health and security of our citizens very badly, which is the reason why the water source has become the top priority of city council because we took office in the end of 2014,” Brain says in the video, referencing a multi-million dollar attempt to upgrade the town’s century-old water system.

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Health Minister Adrian Dix said the problems in Prince Rupert are known for a”considerable time period.” “it is a substantial issue, and we all take it seriously. I believe what you do when you are confronted with a challenge is you begin to take care of it. And that is what we’re attempting to perform.”

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Dix said Northern Health and the City of Prince Rupert are”doing the right thing.” “They are criticized, and we all could be criticized for not moving quickly enough and so on, and I accept that. But specific action was taken in the last short period, and we are going to continue to take it,” he said. No safe level of leadFrom British Columbia to Nova Scotia, reporters involved in this investigation found lead in tap water at levels outside the guideline of 5 ppb of Health Canada. Children below the age of six women and developing fetuses are vulnerable to the neurotoxin, which accumulates in the body over time.

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Blood lead levels have declined considerably in Canada as lead was decreased in paints, gasoline and other products but research has found long-term exposure to even relatively small amounts of lead could have significant medical consequences.In March, Health Canada diminished the maximum allowable concentration of lead in drinking water to 5 ppb from 10 ppb and advocated that lead concentrations be kept”as low as reasonably achievable.”

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In July, February and December, reporters from the University of British Columbia gathered samples of tap water and had them examined in an accredited laboratory. Twenty-one out of the 25 homes exceeded the federal guidelines at least one time in”first draw” samples gathered after the plumbing had not been used for at least six hours.One outcome came in at 70 ppb, 14 times greater than Health Canada’s guideline.Low-income households are at-riskIn Prince Rupert, residents were shocked by the outcomes. Water out of her kitchen tap showed a direct level of 11.5 ppb. “I’m glad I don’t have children living in my home. “At 2016, Jones found herself the centre of media attention when elevated levels of lead were found in the drinking water at a few of the city’s schools. “After we knewwe were on it,” she said.Maintenance staff shattered the pipes each morning, pupils and families were notified, pipes were substituted filters were installed along with a few drinking water fountains were closed down.From her living room overlooking downtown Prince Rupert and the sea outside, Jones said that experience, she has always been proud of the town’s drinking water. “It is kind of cloudy and it looks funny, but it’s very, great water,” Jones said. “But when it sits in those old pipes, then it leaches out the lead.”

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Jones and her husband have replaced some of the plumbing in their 1959 house, but she was surprised by the results. She’s worried that there are many others in her community that have it worse. “It will, I’m completely sure, disproportionately affect the poor in this particular community. “Low-income neighbourhoods are usually in older parts of the city where infrastructure is aging, said Michele Prevost, a civil engineering professor in Polytechnique Montreal and an expert in the subject of water contamination. “Your socioeconomic status impacts your blood lead level,” she said.As a renter in subsidized housing, Peterson said she feels decisions about infrastructure and plumbing enhancements are outside of her control. “I live in poverty,” she said. “I’m in the bottom — I have no say. “For the lower-income inhabitants, simply saying, you need to replace your plumbing, it’s not really fair,” she said. That’s why the city is operating on an engineered solution to reduce corrosion, she added.In the meantime, the city does not subsidize filters for impacted residents. Rather, officials recommend flushing the plumbing, which Lanphear calls reasonable from the short term. Of the 15 homes tested as part of this investigation in July, 12 transcended Health Canada’s guidelines for lead in draw tests. Following the water was flushed for 45 seconds, the guidelines were surpassed by samples from four of 15 homes. Two surpassed the guideline after a two-minute flush. “But if you have ever sat and waited two minutes for water to flush until you use it… it’s extraordinarily long,” said Lanphear. “It is not a workable alternative. We really need to find some filters in place to protect people.” ‘It is in fact insidious’Residents like Nikida Bolton and her partner Colin Innis, who live in the same housing complex as Peterson, have ceased relying on the water that pours out of their own kitchen tap.When they learned regarding lead levels at some regional schools in 2016, such as the one attended by their young kid, the family began buying large jugs of bottled water.Bolton was pregnant with their youngest daughter when samples shot by reporters found amounts of lead at 10.2 ppb in the water out of their own kitchen faucet.

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“We don’t use the water to get her at all,” said Bolton. “We constantly use the bottled water to get her formula. “it is a decision that could help shield her youngest kid from some of the worst impacts of direct. Babies that are fed formula mixed with tap water are vulnerable to the risks of lead in drinking water, said Lanphear. The youngest of peterson, whose, is also worried about the possible impacts on her children. “Chronic low-level exposure” may have severe consequences for health. “It really is insidious,” he said. “We don’t see (it) unless we test children. We don’t see that they might be lead poisoned. Although later in life, like when they begin college, the instructor and the parents might recognize the kids (are) very struggling, having a hard time learning, can’t listen, acting outside, these sorts of things,” he said.

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‘Unheard of in America’In February 2018, Northern Health began requiring the city to inform residents about lead and also how to shield themselves.The city was additionally needed to assess corrosion in residential plumbing through a field sampling plan. Testing conducted by town and Northern Health this season found lead levels over Health Canada’s guideline at 41 of 65 homes sampled.These were also”first draw” tests. In a press release the city notes,”these amounts are not representative of the water being drawn through the tap throughout the day once stagnant water gets cleared.”

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Eleven of these homes also surpassed the provincial government’s”action level” of 15 ppb, signalling a corrosion hazard and triggering a second round of sampling that is now underway.Prince Rupert shows lead levels greater than the brand new 5 ppb guideline”could be frequently found in systems without corrosion management because of the existence of legacy solders and leaded brass,” Prevost saidin an email.A 1991 government report indicates the provincial government has known for at least 28 years that some coastal municipalities have contaminated water. Water, which has a pH below , is regarded as an important factor. Yet, there are no federal or provincial principles in B.C. that require water providers to address it.From Lanphear’s view”corrosion controls should have been executed 20 to 30 years ago.

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Some communities take steps to address corrosive water until it’s dispersed into residents’ houses, and others don’t. Metro Vancouver, for instance, began adding lime to raise its water’s pH in 2011.

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“It is so cheap to raise the pH, which would… lower levels of aluminum, reduced levels of direct,” he said.Fumerton said it’s not quite as straightforward as adding something to the water. “They need to perform studies to make sure the decision they’re making is actually likely to be effective for their particular, unique scenario,” she said, adding that infrastructure changes will be necessary to address whatever way they select. The difficulties won’t be completely resolved by the treatment plant with direct, said Mayor Brain in a city video. He did not agree to an interview. “If there were not sources of lead from the residential plumbing it would not get into the water, which is why we encourage people where possible to contemplate replacing all plumbing elements containing lead or conduct flushing,” he said.Prince Rupert is not alone in its struggle with pressurized water.

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A lot of other water providers serving coastal B.C. communities have reported drinking water with acidic pH and reduced alkalinity in annual reports and a few do not seem to be adjusting the water pH so as to restrain corrosion.Prevost said”it’s the worst mix for lead and copper. “The battle can be difficult to fix for smaller, more remote communities. “Many other communities across the north struggle with their drinking water system. They are obsolete and need updates, but these updates are incredibly expensive,” said Fumerton.In March 2016, members of the B.C. Environmental Health Policy Advisory Committee shared the”best approach… to motivate communities to implement corrosion control,” according to meeting minutes acquired under Freedom of Information legislation.

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However, in spite of talking the”requirement (such as ) a clear, consistent message” and concerns about leaching in areas where the pH is not acidic, the province has not needed municipalities to control corrosion or to conduct in-home testing in a random selection of homes, documents show.Dix said demands for computer-based testing and corrosion management are some thing to be thought about. “The problems in all those communities around the shore have to be taken seriously,” he said.The province does require schools built before 1990 to test for lead in drinking water once every 3 years. Government data indicates that since 2016 over 600 schools have reported a minumum of one water sample that exceeded the federal guideline for lead.Health Canada recommends direct testing in residential taps as well, but provincial authorities decide if municipalities will be required to perform so.Drinking water officers in B.C.’s regional health authorities can add this necessity to municipalities’ operating licenses, but it’s not mandated across B.C.The resulting lack of information makes it hard to know which communities may be at-risk or whether corrosion management in place is successful. “The very first step is to check when you experience an issue with direct, and if you have an issue with direct you have to correct with therapy,” Prevost said. Lead exceedances were found in homes in Vancouver, Nanaimo and Victoria, suggesting a broader problem — and it goes beyond lead.Lack of accountabilityIn July, B.C.’s auditor general, Carol Bellringer, released the results of an audit analyzing the protection of drinking water from the province.She found a convoluted system between 23 pieces of legislation, multiple ministries and agencies — along with a deficiency of accountability.Though it was too early to assess whether the government’s advice on direct was being executed, the audit determined overall that,”(the Ministry of Health) and the (Provincial Health Officer) are not taking the necessary action to protect drinking water for all British Columbians.

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He did not, however, make any firm commitments to require provincewide direct testing or prerequisites for corrosion control.Lanphear, an expert on direct toxicity, said authorities should aim to lower vulnerability as a preventative measure — particularly since heart disease is the primary cause of premature death worldwide. “We don’t invest in public health how we need to, we’ve ignored this water infrastructure for too long,” he said. Prevost said the guidelines aren’t being taken seriously enough. “If you don’t measure, you don’t know when you have a problem,” she said. But,”if you don’t have regulations, why would the utilities quantify? And when it’s high, if you don’t have a regulation that states you have to act, why would anyone act? “with documents from Paul Johnson, Global NewsCredits: Faculty Supervisor: Charles Berret, University of British Columbia, Graduate School of JournalismInstitute for Investigative Journalism, Concordia University: Series Producer: Patti Sonntag Research Coordinator: Michael Wrobel; Project Coordinator: Colleen Kimmett; Investigative Reporting Fellow: Lauren DonnellyInstitutional Credits: University of British Columbia, Graduate School of JournalismProduced by the Institute for Investigative Journalism, Concordia UniversitySee the Complete list of Tainted Water series credits here: concordia.ca/watercredits.


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