Sherri McIntyre was disgusted by what she saw filling her bathtub earlier this year. Complaints over the community's water colour have been pouring into the district office for several years.

Behest of the West: Ucluelet isn’t loving its 50 shades of brown situation

Our council had the chance to prove their words were true once, and this reporter’s eyebrows raised when they didn’t take it.

When we’re very young, it seems obvious to us that everything we see should be in our mouths so we put every ounce of effort we can muster into tasting whatever we can get our hands on.

It’s up to the adults around us to panic and fret and constantly save us from ourselves and this is why anyone who’s ever been in charge of a child for over a minute knows true terror. Everything is a choking hazard. Everything is capable of poking an eye out.

There are, however, some things you must trust are safe. You must, for example, trust that the water you’re giving your kids to drink or using to thin out their juice or wash the dishes you put their meals on, isn’t somehow going to kill them. Tofino’s parents seem to have that trust. Ucluelet’s don’t.

Ucluelet’s water is, as Forrest Gump would say, like a box of chocolates; not only because,’You never know what you’re gonna get,’ but also because there’s a good chance various shades of brown will be involved.

Ucluelet has a water problem Everyone knows this, through stories in this newspaper, to photos posted on social media that show unpredictably gross-coloured water coming out of shower heads, being poured into drinking glasses and staining linens in laundry machines.

Every so often, locals complain loudly enough that the district issues its well rehearsed assurance that the water is safe to drink. The colour problem, they’ve been assuring us for years, is purely an aesthetic one. We have to assume that’s true because the alternative is that our local leaders are knowingly allowing us to be poisoned and frankly that’s farfetched enough to be unbelievable.

Our council did have the chance to prove their words were true once though, and this reporter’s eyebrows raised when they didn’t take it. The most entertaining council meeting to take place in Ucluelet over the last five years occurred on Jan. 15, 2014, when a handful of Marine Drive residents brought council a challenge by way of a particularly putrid show-and-tell display.

The group placed roughly six clear glass jars of various sizes onto council’s communal desk and asked their elected officials to drink the water inside them. The water the jars contained varied in colour from light yellow to pitch black but had, the group claimed, come straight from the taps in their homes and businesses and should be, as council and their staff continuously assure, safe to drink.

Evidently, not a single councillor was thirsty as not a drop was drank.

Not putting yellow, brown or black water in one’s mouth may seem obvious to anyone who isn’t a toddler but, if the district is entirely confident that the water is safe, then why didn’t our leaders take the opportunity to prove that in front of the group of concerned citizens in front of them by taking a swig?

To be fair, only two of our current councillors were on council in 2014—Oliwa and Mole—and to be fairer still, Marine Drive’s display did lead to a well-attended and well-presented public forum where we were told, as we always have been, the problem was aesthetic. We also learned we could have consistently clear water if we agreed to pay for a $7 million filtration system.

Roughly two years after that forum, the district put some effort in. They drained the town’s two water reservoirs and scrubbed them clean earlier this year and also heavily flushed the town’s water pipes. Hopefully that will have an impact because, even if we follow the premise that the water is safe, we’re still led down a less than adequate path as the problem with that ‘purely aesthetic’ line is that it belittles the issue to a nuisance.

Ask Black Rock or the Snug Harbour Inn how purely aesthetic a problem it is that tourists are writing about disgusting shower experiences on TripAdvisor and thousands of dollars worth of linens are being lost to stains from dark water.

Andrew Bailey is the editor of the Westerly News.

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