Water petition circulates in Port

  • Jul. 21, 2010 5:00 p.m.

Seventy-three people, including Port Clements mayor Cory Delves, have signed a petition demanding a meeting with Port council, the public works superintendent, and Northern Health to discuss the recent order to add chlorine to the village’s water system. Port resident Judy Hadley presented the petition to council Monday night (July 19), saying that many residents are extremely concerned about the health effects of chlorine, which she considers a poison. Port has resisted treating its water with chlorine for 33 years, Ms Hadley said, and residents don’t understand why Northern Health suddenly ordered the treatment. The chlorine treatment started June 21, and last week Northern Health lifted the boil water advisory the village had been under since March. “Why do we have to have chlorine indefinitely?” she asked. “I’m really at a loss as to how they could push us any more than they’ve pushed us before.” Northern Health changed the terms of the village’s water licence in June to require chlorine treatment after three months of inconsistent water test results. The results showed higher than acceptable levels of total coliforms, which are not dangerous themselves but are a warning sign of possible problems with the water system, said village administrator Heather Nelson-Smith. Mr. Delves was not at the council meeting, but councillors Greg Stewart, Cam Traplin and Wally Cheer all said they share Ms Hadley’s concerns about the chlorine treatment. “I would like to tell Northern Health to go to hell because I didn’t see anything wrong with the water, but they just don’t let you do that,” Mr. Traplin said. Mr. Stewart and Mr. Cheer both told Ms Hadley that the village was forced by Northern Health to add chlorine, and the decision had nothing to do with council. Northern Health is willing to send someone to Port to meet with residents as soon as results of testing for trihalomethanes are available, Mr, Stewart said, which could be as early as next week. Trihalomethanes, or THMs, are formed when chlorine reacts with organic material in the water, and may be associated with an increased risk of cancer. Ms Hadley said she would prefer that the public meeting be held in September when as many residents as possible can attend. Northern Health environmental health officer Colin Merz told the Observer last month that Port’s water problems are not unusual in older systems, and that chlorine treatment is the easiest and most effective way to make sure the water is safe. While there are some health concerns about chlorine, he said, it’s far riskier to drink untreated water than chlorinated water. Meanwhile, Port does have grant money to make upgrades to its water treatment plant and distribution system. Public works superintendent Pete Nelson-Smith gave council an update on that project, saying he’s been discussing the engineering report and recommendations made in 2006 with Northern Health, and that some changes may need to be made to the proposed upgrades. Once these decisions have been made, Port will be able to go ahead and tender the project.