UPDATE: Fraser Health orders permanent chlorination in Chilliwack

Fraser Health says Chilliwack's water system has been 'compromised on many occasions.'

Fraser Health has ordered the immediate permanent chlorination of Chilliwack.

When health officials made Chilliwack turn on its emergency chlorination system last week it was only “until further notice.”

On Thursday, it became permanent.

Fraser Health has told the City of Chilliwack that if it wants to retain its permit to supply water to residents it must chlorinate its water – permanently.

The move will add an additional three per cent to the average water bill, the city said.

“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. She thanked the “thousands” of residents who made their voices heard and fought for Chilliwack’s water, and said although they had their challenges with the water file, they hope to work with FHA to fight Metro’s incineration plans.

But some won’t be happy.

“I know this news will initially be difficult for many to accept,” said Gaetz.

A total of 4,470 people signed the online petition at www.chilliwackwater.com.

The preliminary investigation by the city did not find a cause of the E.coli in Greendale last week.

Fraser Health has issued formal notice under the Drinking Water Protection Act  that as of March 7, a secondary disinfectant is required to be injected into Chilliwack’s drinking water system, effective immediately.

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

“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 in a statement released Thursday. “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.”

He said an investigation of the Chilliwack water system underlined Fraser Health’s concern that contamination could continue. “The information provided [by the City of Chilliwack] confirmed vulnerabilities in the system including a number of residences with dual systems and without backflow prevention. These potential pathways by which pathogens can enter the distribution system was the reason for the initial concerns of Fraser Health.”

Fraser Health has  issued a minimum target for residual disinfection at the tap of 0.2 mg/L of chlorine.

Planning for the water system upgrade from standby to permanent is underway. The estimated cost of $1.5 million for the upgrade means staff will seeking grants the city can apply for to offset costs.

“The City will also require an estimated increase of three per cent to the water user fees to pay for the ongoing costs of chlorinating the water,” according to the release.

More at www.chilliwack.com, or for questions about chlorination contact Fraser Health at 604.870.7919 or by email: feedback@fraserhealth.ca

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