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  • Madeline Kerr

Boil that 'magical' spring water

Laura Gagnon and Brenin Edmunds just wanted a drink of water.

The pair of friends and musicians, who were visiting from London, Ont. will have to boil the “delicious, magical mineral water” from the Wakefield spring as the popular water source, which has been contaminated for over a month, is now under a boil water advisory.

“I’m so disappointed!” exclaimed Edmunds, when he and Gagnon noticed the laminated sign on the spring notifying them that the water was undrinkable.

The two then left, still thirsty.

As of Aug. 18, the Municipality of La Pêche’s website recommends that anyone planning on drinking water from the spring must bring it to a rolling boil for at least one minute to ensure that all microorganisms are destroyed.

Prior to this announcement, the water had been deemed ‘undrinkable’ due to contamination.

The latest test results from water testing company Aquatech, conducted on Aug. 9, show that the number of atypical bacteria in the water is over 200 units per 100 millilitres, according to results published on the municipality’s website.

This is a dramatic increase from the previous test, conducted on Aug. 1, which indicated just three units of atypical bacteria per 100 millilitres.

When the concentration is higher than 200 units, it interferes with testing for fecal coliform, meaning that an accurate test for total coliforms cannot be completed.

Fecal coliform bacteria are microscopic organisms that live in the intestines of warm-blooded animals. They also live in the waste material, or feces, excreted from the intestinal tract.

E-coli was not indicated in the test results, which are available on the municipality’s website.

La Pêche Mayor Guillaume Lamoureux told the Low Down that there is a chance this latest result “may be erroneous,” adding, “We are waiting for more information.

In the meantime, it’s important that people follow the boiling advisory.”

Visitors aren’t the only ones experiencing disappointment due to the spring’s continued closure. Geoff Lee, a resident of Farm Point, said that he continues to use the spring water for tiling work at his house, which is currently without plumbing, but has had to buy drinking water in bottles from Giant Tiger instead.

The Wakefield spring was first closed on July 18 after routine water-testing results showed that the water contained a higher level of fecal coliform than is considered safe.

At that time, the number of units of coliform in the spring water was 12 per 100 millilitres; 10 units is the highest number deemed safe for consumption.

Lamoureux said that “a member of our staff is looking into [the causes]” of the ongoing contamination.

A minimum of two tests are required to determine if water is contaminated or safe to drink. It can take up to a week from when the test is performed to when results are available, depending on lab timelines.

The municipality will issue a drinking water advisory via its website when the water has been deemed safe to drink again.

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