Better system needed for emergencies in smaller communities

Many residents in Burton are calling for a change in how smaller communities in the area are notified of emergencies.

If you’ve only recently learned about the boil water notice currently in effect in Burton, you’re not the only one.

Tests are done on the Burton water system at the start of every week, usually on a Monday or Tuesday, with the results of the tests coming in by the end of that same week.

On Sept. 1, the Regional District of Central Kootenay (RDCK) sent out an email issuing a boil water notice for residents using the system after traces of E. coli and total coliform bacteria were found during routine testing. Consumptive level chlorination has been added to the reservoir to help disinfect the water, and the system is also being flushed.

While many media outlets were alerted to the notice the day it was issued, the same can’t be said for Burton residents.

“I don’t have the internet, and I can’t get the radio, so I didn’t actually know until they were doing anything,” said Stuart Lethaby, a longtime resident of Burton. “I knew there was something wrong with the water, because I could taste it, and I could smell it. I happened to go to the school, and I saw the notice on the door that said boil water.”

He said the water tasted really foul, sort of earthy, and very nasty, as if it had gone through a septic tank.

The article about the boil water notice was published online the day the media release was issued, and shared on several social media outlets, but not everyone saw it.

Despite being in the age of electronics, not everyone has Internet, or even a computer, which can make finding information difficult.

“I’ve heard lots from quite a few residents,” said Paul Peterson, the RDCK representative for Area K. “They’re upset because it could have been a really serious situation with the water, and for some of them with health issues, it could have been a serious thing.”

Peterson thinks how the boil water notice was handled is unacceptable.

He thinks the RDCK needs to get a plan in so they can do that communication more immediately. The old method was to have someone, along with a backup person in every community, going door to door with a flyer, telling residents. If the residents aren’t home, they leave a flyer.

Peterson said he is working on getting back to that system.

One round of testing has been completed and come back negative. Results for the second round of testing have also come back negative, and the boil water advisory has been rescinded.

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