Arsenic forces households to receive bottled water

Oliver Paipoonge, Ont. — The water system that the Municipality of Oliver Paipoonge wants residents to turn to in Rosslyn is currently not producing potable water and won’t be for some time.

The Rosslyn Village drinking water system arsenic readings are above acceptable levels in their south well and the approximately 30 households on the system will have to go to the municipality office to receive bottled water to drink and cook with, it was learned at Oliver Paipoonge’s regular council meeting on Tuesday.

Approximately, 220 households sit on the water system line, but not every home is hooked up to the system.

The Thunder Bay District Health Unit slapped a drinking water advisory in the municipality on Thursday, with a boil water advisory not even considered, as arsenic could not be removed by boiling water.

“If I signed up as one of the 30 people that the municipality would supply me with potable water, where does the responsibility lie?” said Coun. Allan Vis at Tuesday’s meeting. “I almost think it has to be the municipality.

“Then I have this question here for staff, has anyone reached out since this occurred to the federal or provincial government for grants for emergency or disaster funding?

“I constantly read in the newspaper where there’s millions of dollars given to water systems all through this province. Now has anybody contacted anybody yet or are we just sitting here doing nothing?”

Oliver Paipoonge Mayor Lucy Kloosterhuis replied, “I have been speaking with some people, but right at this very moment, today, we’re trying to figure out how we can get them to switch to the other well, so in the interim, the people could have good water to drink again. The province and the federal government are not going to work that fast, but that is in the process of discussion.”

The north well of the water system had already been shut down and tested below the maximum allowable arsenic content number of .01 milligrams of arsenic per litre over the past three months, but can’t go back online until it tests under the allowable content number over the next three months.

One of the options to remove the drinking water advisory was to put in a treatment system that came with a $285,000 price tag.

“The only way we’re going to get around this is that it will cost us $285,000,” Vis said. “There’s no way 30 homes or 100 homes can afford that. We’re going to have to get smart with the government and that there is funding available if we can get to the right point.

“If we ever got to that point where we did get that funding and that $285,000 piece in there, you may have a lot more people wanting to get on the system because now we can provide potable water.

“I think that it’s key that we continue to drive after these governments and say, ‘We’ve got a disaster, folks. We’re in a real pickle here. What do we do?’ So in the meantime, I think we supply them with water. I don’t want to pay for that water, but what do you do. It’s neighbours helping neighbours.”

Council voted on and passed resolutions that would see residents affected by the water advisory pick up bottled water at the municipal office and that the municipality would pay for it.

Residents who are affected by the drinking water advisory can pick up 16 litres of water per household per day from the municipal office.

John Nagy, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Chronicle-Journal