It is the tenth anniversary of the Walkerton disaster when a combination of excess rainwater and excess manure contaminated the town's water supply causing thousands of cases of e-coli poisoning and killing seven .
We really are lucky in Winnipeg, though I know that there are many who will complain about the water smelling and tasting like, umm, water from time to time. It may not flow from the taps sterilized and reverse-'osmosissed' but we're part of a fairly small per-centage of the world's population that has both the abundance and cleanliness of water to be able to turn on the tap whenever we want and have a drink. (Just one stat from World Water Day: unsafe drinking water causes millions of death each year - 2.2 million just through diarrhea).
Canada's standards for quality and testing vary by jurisdiction. There are national standards but only Alberta, Nova Scotia, Quebec, Ontario and Yukon have signed on to them. The standards are voluntary, carry no penalty and any testing varies by jurisdiction.
Thought not enforceable, how do they stand up to, say, the WHO's international drinking water standards ? According to Ecojustice, (formerly the Sierra Legal Defence Fund), who today released an update on the State of Canada's water supply, "... Canada had weaker concentration guidelines than the World Health Organization recommends for 53 out of 67 contaminants that were reviewed". (source)
While researching a post for my other blog on the water treatment plant battle bubbling in the R.M. of Whitemouth I came across the latest stats from the Manitoba government on boil water advisories. As of May 11, 2010 there are 70 community boil water advisories, another 8 for private wells serving the public and 7 for contaminated ground water supplies.
Winnipeggers are luckier than we like to think sometimes.
WHO Guidelines for Safe Drinking Water WHO
Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Health Canada
Provincial Boil Water Advisories Province of Manitoba
See yesterday's National Post series
Inside Walkerton CBC News