If it’s brown you probably don’t want to chug it down, and if it’s black you might want to send it back, but the district says it’s still safe to drink the water.
Ucluelet local Sherri McIntyre suffered a particularly disgusting shock when she recently attempted to draw a bath and wound up filling her tub with sludge.
“The water was almost black; it was really bad. I was beyond disgusted,” McIntyre told the Westerly News adding dark water is unfortunately not an uncommon sight in her Whispering Pines home.
“This has happened every couple weeks for the last four years that we’ve lived in this house.”
Ucluelet’s water woes were brought to the forefront in 2014 when local concerns, raised at council meetings and in this newspaper, motivated the district to issue a public information bulletin stating the water was safe to drink and a community forum was held to address concerns.
To combat what it believed, and still believes, to be a purely aesthetic problem, the district began flushing its pipes more intensely and put plans in place to address the issue.
“From our meeting in 2014, we’re trying to continue to improve with water quality within the community,” the district’s manager of public works Warren Cannon told the Westerly News. “The focal point was to look at the reservoirs this year.”
Ucluelet has two water reservoirs, Mercantile Creek and Lost Shoe Aquifer, and both are currently being drained so they can each be cleaned.
Cannon said this work, along with a recent water main repair on Hemlock Road, is causing dark water to flow into local homes but he added that locals can still drink the water while the work is ongoing.
“There is discolouration and sediment but test results show that we don’t have any issues…It’s just discoloured,” he said.
A community notice posted to the district’s website on Jan. 13 suggests the work would be completed by Jan. 29 but Cannon cautioned it might take longer depending on workflow.
“There’s a possibility that these dates may extend,” he said.
Local frustration kicked up through social media as the website bulletin was the extent of the district’s information sharing and many locals, including McIntyre, missed the memo, which allowed unexpected dark water to stain laundry.
“The part that really gets me is that there’s not enough notification when things are going on…It should be very well announced; we need to be notified beforehand,” she said.
“More communication needs to happen. They need to make it more widely announced when they’re doing work like this.”
She acknowledged the district has been working on the water problem but wondered what progress has been made and said she is tired of being told not to expect solutions overnight.
“There’s discussing it and there’s actually seeing some progress and, for the amount of sediment that’s coming through, there needs to be more progress than what’s happened obviously,” she said.
“The first time I moved to Ucluelet was in 2002, I lived on Holly Crescent, and we had the same issues with water back then so 14 years, to me, is not overnight…We need to have clean drinking water.”
McIntyre, who has a two-year-old daughter, said she is “absolutely” worried about letting her family consume Ucluelet’s tap water.
“We don’t believe that it’s drinkable, not with that much sediment in it,” she said. “You can’t boil that stuff out…We would boil a pot of water and we would see the sludge inside.”
She said she plans to purchase a water testing kit to get a second opinion on the district’s claims.
“When this happens again, and it will, we can test the water and send it to VIHA [the Vancouver Island Health Authority] and have them say, ‘Yes this is safe to drink,’ or, ‘No this is not safe to drink,” she said.
She hopes others in the community raise their concerns to the district.
“We can’t sit here and be quiet forever, it’s not helping,” she said. “This should have been a top priority so long ago”
Cannon said his department welcomes feedback.
“We always welcome public input and discussions on water,” he said.