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Water challenges continue in B.C.’s Prince Rupert as residents await new infrastructure

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Prince Rupert Water Pipe
Richard Pucci, Prince Rupert’s director of operations, shows a water transmission pipe that he says needs to be moved underground. Photo credit: YouTube Screen Capture/City of Prince Rupert.

As residents of the British Columbia port city of Prince Rupert wait for the municipality’s aging water infrastructure to be replaced following last year’s funding, a series of water advisories continues to make life challenging.

Prince Rupert, a transportation hub on B.C.’s north coast, is currently under a moderate level water quality advisory for its some 12,200 residents due to heavy rainfall and landslides that have increased turbidity in the local drinking water.

“During today’s available weather window, city staff conducted a fly-over of the watershed and identified a few additional small landslides that were not originally identified as they are not visible from the ground,” local officials said in a statement.

The current advisory from the Northern Health Authority recommends boiling water for children, pregnant women, the elderly and those with weakened immune systems.

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It is the latest in a series of challenges for Prince Rupert residents, following several months of boil water advisories in 2019, due to tests that revealed too much of the microbial contaminants giardia and cryptosporidium in the water, which can result in outbreaks of gastroenteritis. Later, however, health authorities claimed the tests were likely a false positive and issued a report to detail their actions. The mixup was partially attributed to an algae bloom in Shawatlan Lake that was “misunderstood”, officials said.

Earlier in 2020, a school district in the city ran tests that showed copper levels did not meet new standards and handed out bottled water to students. This followed a scare in 2016, when the city discovered that the level of lead in its drinking water did not meet the standards set by Health Canada.

Near the end of summer 2019, Prince Rupert finally had some good water news thanks to funding of nearly $31 million for the construction of a new water treatment plant, new water lines, and the replacement of a century-old dam and an underwater pipeline from 1967 across Fern Channel.

“In just five years we’ve obtained the grants necessary to conduct all three phases of our water project, ensuring a full overhaul of our water supply infrastructure to provide safe and reliable drinking water to our residents,” said Mayor Lee Brain when the new funding was announced.

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