E-coli found in Low’s water supply
Frustration levels were already high among Low residents who have had boil water advisories or no water at all since July 6. With the latest advisory on Sept. 23 showing fecal coliforms, or E-coli, in the water supply, patience has run out.
“I feel like I am living in a developing country. This is not acceptable in a small, modern municipality so close to a major city,” said Low resident and former councillor, Michèle Logue Wakeling. “I have no confidence that council can resolve this satisfactorily.”
The water problems date back to July 6. Since then, a string of issues has prevented safe water from reaching villagers. There have been problems with the pumps, electrical supply, and generators, resulting in several boil water advisories, discoloured water, and the supply being cut off completely for two days in July.
The interruptions have forced residents to either boil their water or get it from an alternative safe supply. Franceska Gnarowski, resident and former director general of the municipality of Low said that a lack of communication from the municipality has made matters worse.
“There is a complete and utter lack of transparency and communication. And because of that there is now a lot of mistrust. Council was elected to represent the people and make decisions on our behalf and yet we are prevented from [obtaining] real, reliable information,” she said. She added that in situations like this which involve public safety, “the municipality has an obligation to have an emergency plan in place, but nothing was followed.”
E-coli poses a significant risk to the public. In addition to the E-coli, the latest advisory states, “the water may also contain microorganisms that are dangerous to your health.”
Email notifications were sent by the municipality to a select group of residents on a contact list and advisories have been posted on the municipal website, but Gnarowski describes these notices as often, “too little too late,” especially for residents who aren’t tech savvy. In the case of the Sept. 23 advisory, and because of the severity of the E-coli finding, a notice from the municipality was hand delivered to residents.
Gnarowski received hers in the late morning long after she had used her water. The Low pumphouse and infrastructure, which was built in the 1960’s, needs a major renovation, admits Low mayor Carol Robert. The system hasn’t been upgraded since 1993, and likely needs an overhaul. Robert didn’t have a timeline for the fix, but said that studies were underway.
The municipal pump house serves approximately 300 residents in the central area of the village. Other residents have wells.
Gnarowski is frustrated with the way municipal staff have handled Low’s water woes and hopes council finds a way to train workers to maintain the system. “We are paying thousands of dollars every month to have our water tested,” she said.
Resident Tara Wakeling, who regularly attends council meetings, noted that there has been no director of public works in Low for the past five years. While service has been unreliable, water bills have gone up from $226 in 2017 to over $500.
Gnarowski and Logue Wakeling are hoping council will take this issue seriously. They want to see a plan in place that will put a quick end to boil water advisories and provide a safe supply of water to the residents of Low