With the advent of spring run-off just around the corner, “how’s your water?” will soon be a discrete topic of engagement for at least some concern for residents not served by a public utility, and that accounts for half of all Arrow area households besides Nakusp. Those that rely on their own surface or ground water system often overlook the aspect of the quality of water they, their family, and guests are availed for drinking, personal hygiene such as brushing one’s teeth, hand washing, and food preparation. Although not many of us drink eight tall glasses daily as recommended by Health Canada in order to maintain good bodily function, we all know that good clean water is an essential element to all health and well being. This beckons the question: what is good clean water in the eye of the freshet phenomena? During the spring freshet the presence of disease-causing strains of bacteria, viruses, protozoa, or physical and chemical levels are potentially most extreme. Just because your water looks, tastes and smells clean doesn’t necessarily mean it is.
Environment Canada recommends having your water tested annually, yet most individuals are reluctant to do so for a variety of unorthodox reasons. We seem to have a keen concern for our health when it comes to food, air, and the health care system but apparently not so when it comes to drinking surface or ground water. For example, the effects of drinking water contaminated with coliform bacteria such as Fecal or E. coli are a serious health concern, due to the increased risk of contracting a water-borne illnesses such as Giardiasis or ‘beaver fever’ where flue-like symptoms can be spread person-to-person. Such contamination is real and a darn good reason a public utility would be issued an all-familiar boil advisory or even an order. Now in our third year, ALESS has been providing domestic water testing service and results indicate that 37 per cent of samples collected throughout the Arrow area tested positive for coliforms. As with public utilities, these waters should be boiled, the system disinfected by chlorinated shock treatment and tested three consecutive times to ensure the system is bacteria free. Confirmation tests are seldom done. Other reasons for issuing the wrath of a water advisory or order include a disruption in the delivery system due to construction and repairs, and turbidity levels – a measure of suspended solids. Sample testing done by ALESS have consistently shown these levels far exceed the recommended safe guidelines.
Interior Health Units are responsible for issuing boil advisories or orders governing public utilities and organizations that tend to serve the general public and, as such, become public record. What Arrow community, campground or resort has escaped the wrath of an advisory or order? None, yet those responsible for their own systems have spent the last thirty years drinking water that has never been tested.
More intense testing of wells, particularly in the Burton area has shown high iron content. Although published guidelines consider this presence to be aesthetic in nature and a significant health benefit in small amounts, it nevertheless can be a nuisance by staining laundry cloths, discolouring water and accumulating in plumbing fixtures, sometimes clogging them. Water containing high manganese levels and excessive iron content should be filtered and not boiled as this may increase concentration. Both metals can increase the growth of unwanted bacteria that form a slimy coating in water pipes and should therefore be disinfected with chlorine as a minimum treatment since filtration alone will not destroy bacteria. The most common sources of iron and manganese in groundwater are naturally occurring, although industrial effluent, acid-mine drainage, sewage and landfill leachate may also contribute to local groundwater. Interestingly, the majority of Burton’s private wells are located downhill from past gold mine activities, septic systems, highways salted road sand stockpiles, and the discontinued landfill site.
Certain other metal, physical and chemical levels exceeding the Canadian Drinking Quality Guidelines may increase the risk of developing anemia or kidney failure, urinary tract infection, cancers of the skin, bladder, kidney and lungs; diabetes, high blood pressure, arthritis, dementia or Alzheimer’s – just to name a few; and may take as many as twenty years or more to develop. On a brighter note, well proven etiology reports that osteoporosis decreases as calcium intake from drinking water (including milk and milk products) increases; increased levels of magnesium in drinking water are associated with decreased occurrence of cardiac disease.
Keeping in mind that ALESS’s main function as trained and certified water quality monitors is to capture a scientific footprint of the quality of water flowing through Burton’s watersheds, ALESS encourages to have your domestic water tested – or analysed, if you will, to determine if your surface or well water is safe to drink according to the Canadian Drinking Water Quality Guidelines. With approval from BC’s Interior Health Officer, our roll to offer testing service goes beyond just the stringent collection, packing and shipping protocols as required by an analytical laboratory; we help to make sense of the lab results and offer some helpful hints to correct any anomalies if needed. And best of all, the results are completely confidential … no government intervention because only you are solely responsible for your own water. Get to know what’s in it. It’s your water – your health.