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Langley Township, health authority review boil water warning

A street sign advised Aldergrove residents of boil water warning last month. - Harry Hunt/Black Press
A street sign advised Aldergrove residents of boil water warning last month.
— image credit: Harry Hunt/Black Press

The Township of Langley and Fraser Health Authority are reviewing the way boil water warnings are issued after several Aldergrove residents complained about the way the municipality and medical agency handled a contamination alert in July.

The advisory was issued Friday, July 4 for the municipal water supply east of 260 Street and west of 276 Street and north of 24 Avenue and south of 36 Avenue.

It said people should boil their drinking water for at least one minute before drinking because a “low level of coliform bacteria was detected.”

The notice was posted on the Township website and various online social media.

As well, a press release was distributed to newspapers, television and radio and street signs went up.

The notice was lifted on Monday, July 7.

There were no reports of any illness.

Some residents complained they didn’t find out about the notification until several hours after it was issued.

Annette Matthews said her husband discovered the warning several hours after it was issued, and only because he happened to be watching the evening news.

She said her husband, who has a compromised immune system because he is undergoing chemotherapy, had consumed about 32 ounces of municipal tap water that afternoon and evening, because he was under doctor’s orders to drink plenty of fluids.

Matthews called the notice process “inadequate and dangerous” for people with health issues like her husband and suggested using door-to-door leaflets or an automated telephone call system in the future.

“I believe there is room for improvement in the notification process,” Matthews added.

Other residents had the same opinion.

In a comment posted on The Times website, Clovis Amado said if a friend hadn’t phoned, the notice never would been discovered.

“If this is so serious, why [aren’t] they making sure that people know about it?” Amado wrote.

Another resident, Brenda Moon York, said the Township should have gone door to door.

“A lot of people I talked to … did not know a thing about it,” York wrote.

In response, the Township and Fraser Health sent a letter to Matthews that said the boil water warning followed established protocols but those protocols are “currently under review, with a view to be updated based on the knowledge and experience gained as a result of the recent event in Aldergrove.”

The letter said the Township has an eAlert system that can email warnings directly to residents, but only if they subscribe.

“A public information campaign is currently in the planning stages of being developed for implementation in the coming weeks, to better inform the public about the existence of the eAlert service,” the letter said.

The letter went on to say that the Township and Fraser Health will look into door-to-door notification, but it warned “there are practical challenges” in a community the size of the Township.

The joint letter was signed by Victoria Lee, the Fraser Health executive medical director and medical health officer, population and public health, and Ramin Seifi, the Township general manager, engineering and community development.

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