Opinion

Risk too great for FHA

There were few converts coming out of the Alliance Church following Tuesday night’s information meeting on the planned chlorination of Chilliwack’s drinking water.

The Fraser Health Authority, through Dr. Paul Van Buynder, made a simple case for secondary disinfection: The public health risk of E.coli contamination outweighs any perceived threat, or inconvenience caused by chlorination.

The audience reaction was just as blunt: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

At least that was the polite response.

The more jaded brought up everything from a tenuous link to cancer, to the intrusion of a nanny state into the everyday lives of Chilliwack citizenry.

The anger and distrust in the audience was palpable. But so too was the suspicion that Fraser Health’s agenda was anything but the welfare of the people it is mandated to protect.

Their anger is understandable; the FHA’s bedside manner to date has hardly been inspiring.

Too be fair, however, Fraser Health is simply playing the odds. The infrastructure needed to deliver Chilliwack’s pristine water from its source to the tap is vulnerable, Dr. Van Buynder argues, perhaps not today, maybe not tomorrow, but eventually. And the bigger it gets, the more vulnerable it becomes.

When it is compromised, the best-case scenario puts detection of an E.coli outbreak at four days – nine days at the worst. If the E.coli strain is particularly virulent, the consequences for the young and the elderly would be grave: severe diarrhea, kidney failure, death.

For Dr. Van Buynder, that’s a chance no public health official can take.

It may be an unpopular decision, he’ll argue, but issues of public health are not decided by the number of “likes” they get on a Facebook page.

If the City of Chilliwack wants to keep chlorine out of its water it will have to guarantee its complex network of pipelines, reservoirs and cross-connections will never fail.

That’s a tall order, even for a city whose pride in its water quality is reflected in the rigorous testing and maintenance already under way.

But anything less won’t satisfy Fraser Health. The odds are against it.

We encourage an open exchange of ideas on this story's topic, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. Personal attacks, inappropriate language, and off-topic comments may be removed, and comment privileges revoked, per our Terms of Use. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.

You might like ...

Elderly man walks away from plane crash in Chilliwack
 
UPDATE: Teen fighting for his life after car nearly sheared in half in Surrey crash
 
EDITORIAL: A look back on 25 years
Bublé pops in at RCMP open house
 
Herring family lore includes madness and murder
 
Letters: ‘The trees belong to all of us’
EDITORIAL: Art debate keeps people buzzing
 
COLUMN: Metro Vancouver road pricing has merit
 
COLUMN: New Westminster civic election race heating up

Community Events, September 2014

Add an Event

Read the latest eEdition

Browse the print edition page by page, including stories and ads.

Sep 26 edition online now. Browse the archives.