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Top Stories of 2013: Chlorination order hard to swallow

The City of Chilliwack – and many residents – fought hard to keep chlorine out of its water supply after Fraser Health detected E. coli contamination. However, in March the city was ordered to comply.  - JENNA HAUCK/ PROGRESS File
The City of Chilliwack – and many residents – fought hard to keep chlorine out of its water supply after Fraser Health detected E. coli contamination. However, in March the city was ordered to comply.
— image credit: JENNA HAUCK/ PROGRESS File

Chilliwack tried to fight the chlorination order.

In fact thousands of residents signed a petition  last spring against the idea of adding chlorine to Chilliwack’s pristine drinking water in 2013, joining in with city council which also opposed it.

But in the end they were overruled by concerns about public health risks and legal liability of leaving it untreated.

City of Chilliwack had no choice but to comply with the order issued by Fraser Health’s medical health officer, who signed the order for a secondary disinfectant to be added in March.

It was the upshot of an E. coli reading, and the ones logged prior to that, and his analysis of the risk it posed to human health.

Dr. Paul Van Buynder, Chief Medical Health Officer and Vice-President Public Health for Fraser Health said there was no other option other than permanent chlorination.

“Over the years, Chilliwack’s water system has been compromised on many occasions resulting in fecal coliform and E. coli bacteria entering the distribution system,” Van Buynder said.

“After a review of the relevant data and conversations with public works staff at the City of Chilliwack, it is my assessment that ongoing secondary disinfection of the water supply system with chlorine or an equivalent compound is necessary to ensure a safe drinking water supply.”

A huge mobilization erupted online, netting more than 5,000 signatures for a petition against chlorination.

“Council is extremely disappointed to hear this news, but we have no option but to comply with the Fraser Health Authority mandate,” said Mayor Sharon Gaetz at the time.

She thanked the thousands of residents who made their voices heard and fought for Chilliwack’s water.

Work on Chilliwack’s new $900,000 permanent and full-time chlorination system will be completed in the new year.

Update: The good news is that the system upgrading is not going to increase water rates, after all. The changeover to a permanent water disinfection system is expected to be 100 per cent complete by spring of 2014.

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