A report coming to council Monday indicates the city’s water distribution system had compliance issues, albeit relatively minor, dating back to a boil water advisory issued in September of last year.
The risk to the drinking water supply was minimal, however the Ministry of the Environment water inspection report is significant in that it may prove a precursor to events emanating from two boil water advisories issued in August and September of this year.
The MOE report, issued after a May 11, 2010 inspection of the city’s water distribution system, found three non-compliance issues which did not meet regulatory requirements. Nevertheless, the final inspection rating was 94.44%.
It is the nature of the non-compliance issues that is disturbing — issues that point to weaknesses in or an absence of clear protocol for the management of the water distribution system.
Put aside the finger pointing for a moment, here’s what really came down the pipe in the aftermath of last week’s boil water advisory.
Neither the city nor Elgin St. Thomas Public Health can keep up with today’s lightning-fast social networking.
If you remember, it was Ald. Heather Jackson-Chapman first out of the gate late in the afternoon of Aug. 19 with her tweet advising all followers of the need to boil your drinking water.
This was fully two hours before the general advisory was made public on the city website. That’s because the city and the health unit have not bought into instant communications.
It’s been a week since the boil water advisory and Elgin St. Thomas Public Health has finally checked in with their post mortem on the course of events.
Monday at city hall, Mayor Cliff Barwick stressed the city notified the health unit at 4:30 p.m. on Aug. 19. He went on to note, “Now, at that point, our obligations to notify the health unit had ended. From then on, the ball was in the court of the health unit, and we will do everything we possibly can to assist them.”
In her media release issued today, Aug. 26, Laura McLachlin, director of the health protection department, advises “the health unit is not responsible for notifying users of the drinking water system. That remains the responsibility of the water system operator working for the municipality.”
That is the case, but as Barwick emphatically pointed out at city hall, “And this is perhaps where some improvements in protocol could be made.”
A review of the role of all partners can’t come soon enough.
Here is the full media release from Elgin St. Thomas Public Health
Central Elgin Mayor Tom Marks bristled each time St. Thomas Mayor Cliff Barwick referred to his municipality and Southwold as clients and not neighbours during Monday’s post water advisory media conference. Water wasn’t the only thing boiling during the 24 hours the advisory was in effect. Marks joins Barwick in calling for a review of procedures, most especially communication, in the wake of the largest boil water advisory ever issued in the area. Here are comments from Marks release on Aug. 25 Boil Water Advisory The Next Step
Here is the full transcript of Mayor Cliff Barwick’s press conference Monday, Aug. 23, 2010 at city hall in response to the boil water advisory issued Aug. 19 and lifted the following evening. Barwick opened by explaining why a state of emergency wasn’t declared and instead a low-risk advisory was issued.
A state of emergency activates a controlled group of a number of people, and brings together in the community a number of resources. These resources include fire, police, ambulance, social services, certain other social agencies, other groups and of course there is automatically put in place a phone protocol.
In this particular situation, this is the first time in the history of the City of St. Thomas where we did not have a state of emergency but we had something that affected the city in a city-wide sense.
The state of emergency – at no time did I receive any advice from the administration, from the emergency measures officer, from the health unit or the medical officer of health to declare a state of emergency. I certainly would not to that on my own. I would only act upon that type of advice.