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OK Falls hit with water advisory
About 1,000 homes and businesses supplied by the Okanagan Falls Irrigation District are expected to remain under a boil-water advisory until at least Friday.
That’s the best-case scenario if two consecutive tests this week show the water is once again safe, said Bob Daly, who chairs the board of the irrigation district.
The advisory was issued July 10 after a test conducted on a routine water sample taken July 8 indicated the presence of E. coli in the system.
“There’s no indication where (the contamination) came from,” Daly said.
“Anywhere in the system that kind of thing could pop up. Probably the best-case scenario is it was just some sort of fluke in the testing procedure itself.”
The system was flushed July 10 after the district was alerted to the failed test by Interior Health, and Daly said a sample taken later that day was clear.
Interior Health now requires two more contamination-free tests before it will recommend lifting the advisory.
Judi Ekkert, an IH drinking water specialist, said in a statement the health authority has not confirmed any cases of people becoming sick as a result of consuming the tainted water there.
She said the number of clear tests required before IH will recommend lifting an advisory depends on a number of factors, such as the source of contamination and what measures a water provider takes to address the problem.
Daly acknowledged the boil-water advisory has been difficult for the irrigation district’s customers, both residential and business, during the hottest part of the year and at the height of the tourist season.
“We’ve had some who are not happy and feel there are better ways to inform them, and that’s good, because we’re taking that all in,” he said.
“We really do have to sympathize with the businesses, particularly the restaurants, and the impact it has on them. But (the advisory) is just something you have to do and it’s something we’ll try to clear up as quickly as we can.”
Dogtown Coffee owner Corrie Corfield had to adjust the cafe’s menu to deal with the sudden scarcity of water, but is still serving customers.
“There are certain things we can’t do, like iced drinks, which need water,” she said.
“We’re making do. It’s not the best situation, but we’re doing what we can.”
Corfield said she has no concerns about the manner in which the boil-water advisory was communicated, but said some visitors aren’t quite as understanding.
“There is frustration, especially from tourists that are maybe just passing through,” she said.
The last major boil-water advisory for Okanagan Falls was in 2007, Daly said, and resulted in a portion of the system being permanently chlorinated.
He said tap water is still OK for bating or irrigation, but not for consumption by humans or pets.
According to Interior Health, the water should be brought to a rolling boil for at least one minute before drinking or being used for cooking, brushing teeth, washing dishes or washing fruits and vegetables that will be eaten raw.
Water can also be treated by adding two drops of household bleach per one litre of warm water, or twice that amount for cold water, then shaking the container and allowing it to stand for 30 minutes before using.