In the wake of ongoing questions from some Slocan Valley residents over the safety of their drinking water, Interior Health has issued a release answering several questions that have been asked.
At least two Facebook groups are collecting photos and witness reports to document what some are calling an enironmental crisis that will linger for years. On Friday, July 26, a tanker overturned and spilled almost all of its 35,000 litre load of jet fuel into Lemon Creek.
A lawsuit has also been initiated against the Province of British Columbia and the corporate entities operating as Executive Flight Centre.
Here are the questions that Interior Health has provided answers to:
Q: Why did Interior Health lift the Do Not Use water orders?
A: Interior Health’s Medical Health Officer lifted the orders after careful review of the testing that was done on each section of the Kootenay and Slocan rivers by the consultants handling the clean-up. The decisions also took into consideration a groundwater risk assessment and daily reports on the progress of the clean-up. Interior Health was aware that there were still pockets of fuel on the river but was satisfied that the amounts were relatively small, and that the clean-up process would contain the material. The remaining fuel represents a very low health risk and was not justification for maintaining the generalized, broad Do Not Use order.
Q: How do I know my water is safe to drink or swim in?
A: If you do not see or smell fuel in your water, it is suitable for use. However, recognizing there remains some localized areas of fuel, Interior Health is advising the public to avoid locations on the river where the fuel is visible or fumes persist, and if their water supply smells of fuel vapour, they should not use the water and should contact Interior Health’s Health Protection staff at 250-420-2220.
Q: What do I do if I see or smell fuel in my water?
A: IH has posted flushing instructions on its website (www.interiorhealth.ca). If residents smell fuel odor in their water after flushing their system, they should contact Interior Health. Health Protection staff will assess the information and provide advice about next steps.
Q: Should I get my water tested?
A: Interior Health is not recommending that everyone should test their water. If, after flushing of the water system, there is no odor in the water, then there is no reason to be concerned about possible adverse health effects. If residents still wish to test their water, residents can contact Interior Health at 250-420-2220 – Health Protection staff will provide a list of some analytical laboratories capable of doing that testing.
Q: Where can I access results of water testing?
A: This data will be shared with the public early next week by the consulting company that conducted the testing, and Interior Health will make these results available on our website (www.interiorhealth.ca).
Q: Has anyone been sick as a result of the jet fuel spill? What do I do if I feel sick?
A: Early in the spill response, Interior Health did receive reports about symptoms of nausea and vomiting, as a result of inhalation of fuel vapours. This affected a small number of people. Interior Health has not been advised by physicians of any other cases. However, Interior Health advises that anyone with specific health questions or concerns should contact their family physician as well as IH Health Protection at 250-420-2220.