Village of Roche Percee under boil-water order after E. coli bacteria discovered in water supply

·3 min read
E. coli in a town's drinking water supply can be fatal, as the residents of Walkerton, Ont., discovered in the spring of 2000 when five residents died and many fell ill.  (Kevin Frayer/Canadian Press - image credit)
E. coli in a town's drinking water supply can be fatal, as the residents of Walkerton, Ont., discovered in the spring of 2000 when five residents died and many fell ill. (Kevin Frayer/Canadian Press - image credit)

Water testing in the village of Roche Percee has revealed E. coli contamination, and a boil-water order has been initiated, the provincial Ministry of Health said Friday

The order is applicable for the entire community and other individuals who access water from Roche Percee, about 20 kilometres southeast of Estevan.

"It's been an ongoing crisis here for a while," Mayor Jay Riedel said. "We've gone through a flood in 2011 when six to seven feet of water was here, which compromised a lot of stuff in this area.

"Our water levels in wells are low and without the rain, when we need to keep them full, we're usually down at the bottom all the time."

Submitted by Jay Riedel
Submitted by Jay Riedel

Citing the 2011 floods that displaced hundreds in the province and diminishing rainfall as contributing factors, Riedel says the village's  three wells need to be upgraded.

Riedel said such boil-water advisories have become "all too commonplace" —  their community of about 100 receives at least one such advisory each year.

"We've been lobbying the government for a lot to help," he said. "We need to get some help from the province if we want to keep this community going and vibrant as it used to be."

Riedel said small communities are not "capable of funding and upgrading" their wells, and they want the province to drill new wells to avoid future contamination.

The community is also sending more water samples to be tested to confirm it was not a "rogue sample".

No illness seen so far

"Meanwhile, we are telling residents they need to boil water and bring it to a rolling boil for one minute prior to use," Riedel said.

He said no one in the community has been experiencing flu like systems due to the exposure so far.

The Ministry of Health advises using only boiled water for drinking purposes, washing of fruits and vegetables and brushing teeth.

As well, the boil order applies to any water that may enter a person's mouth, such as water used for tooth brushing, soaking false teeth and water put into food or drink which will not be subsequently heated. Since harmful bacteria may survive freezing, ice cubes should also be made from previously boiled water.

In addition to the above, all dishes and utensils should be soaked in a bleach water solution (approximately 10 ml of bleach per litre of water) for at least two minutes after being washed to kill any bacteria that may be present. Bleach should not be mixed with soaps and detergents.

Village of Roche Percee
Village of Roche Percee

Drinking water from any public drinking fountains supplied with water from the public water supply has also been discouraged.

"We are asking people to use alternative water source known to be safe, such as bottled water."

The provincial Water Security Agency said in an email statement that a boil order is issued when a system is not operating as designed, undergoing maintenance or failing to meet Saskatchewan's drinking water standards.

"A water advisory/order will be lifted once all conditions of the advisory have been met and the waterworks are producing water that meets the Saskatchewan drinking water standards," the statement says.

"This may entail the waterworks owner having to complete repairs, upgrades, optimizing the process and/or submitting bacteriological sample submissions.

"In Roche Percee, the operators of the system are carrying out follow-up tests to confirm the safety of the drinking water, and the [advisory] will remain in place until it is."