Water advisory continues in Meadow Lake

by Phil Ambroziak

Bottled water keeps flying off the shelves.

While this may be great news for area grocery stores, it may not be viewed with as much favour by Meadow Lake residents who realize it means the precautionary drinking water advisory issued earlier this month remains in effect.

“The advisory has had a positive effect on our water sales – big time,” remarked Danielle Evans, assistant manager at Extra Foods. “Sales are never usually this high. Since the advisory was announced, we’ve been receiving about three to four pallets of water per day. Usually we receive about two a week.”

The precautionary drinking water advisory was issued to city residents and businesses March 5. According to the Ministry of Environment (MOE), the advisory was issued because of elevated treated water turbidity (cloudiness or haziness of a fluid caused by individual particles) values at the city’s water treatment plant and in its distribution system. Because of this, the safety of the city’s drinking water supply could not be ensured at all times. More than two weeks later, MOE officials say there’s no end in sight as far as lifting the advisory is concerned.

“The water filtration at the city’s water treatment plant is slowly returning to normal, but turbidity levels are still slightly above the standard according to a recent report,” explained Bill Miller, manager of the MOE’s environmental services section north unit.

Miller went on to note how scenarios such as the current one result in a lack of confidence in the amount of contaminants being removed from the city’s drinking water supply.

In an effort to correct the levels, certain chemicals must be added to the water. This can be tricky, however, because of the seasonal changes experienced during this time of year.

“It can be tough to meet the proper dosage with the ongoing thaw melt and temperature changes,” Miller said. “The chemistry of the water reacts differently to the compound and level of chemicals used. The seasonal changes impact the water’s reaction to these chemicals, which makes it difficult for operators. They have to continually tweak it to get it just right.”

Because of this, the MOE remains reluctant to provide a timeline with regard to how long the advisory is likely to remain in place. In the meantime, residents and businesses are encouraged to boil  water for at least one minute prior to use. Once boiled, it should be used for brushing teeth or soaking false teeth, dishwashing, washing fruits and vegetables, food or drink and ice cubes. It’s also suggested to avoid public drinking fountains.

Bathing and showering, however, is permitted.

“I do know we’ve been making progress slowly,” Miller reiterated. “But, things are still up in the air.”

Meanwhile, the advisory has resulted in a slight change to the way some area restaurants, particularly fast food outlets, traditionally operate.

Establishments such as McDonald’s and KFC have no choice but to forego fountain drinks for canned soda while convenience stores and other businesses have put the sale of certain speciality drinks on hold until the advisory is over.

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