Wasa water information ‘not adequate’

Interior Health admits its response to the June flooding at Wasa Lake could have been better

Interior Health has admitted that its response to the June floods in Wasa was not up to scratch.

In a July 9 letter to Regional District of East Kootenay board chair Rob Gay, Interior Health’s Roger Parsonage, the regional director of health protection, wrote:

“Upon initial review of this situation, it is apparent that a significant communication breakdown has occurred between the Regional District of East Kootenay and Interior Health, and that our response has not been adequate to the scale of the event. In addition to making changes prior to flood season next year, I am continuing to evaluate our efforts from a quality improvement perspective.”

The regional district wrote to Interior Health last month urging it to test the water at Wasa Lake beaches and advise residents how they could find out if their tap water is safe to drink.

Twenty-five properties around Wasa Lake were impacted by flooding after a state of emergency was declared on June 25. Several wells and septic systems were surrounded by water, raising questions about whether well water was safe to drink, and whether the lake was safe to swim in.

Wasa was also hit by flooding in 2012 and Interior Health, which is responsible for water quality testing in the southern interior, issued a water quality advisory

and did testing at the beaches.

“Because of what happened last year and because Interior Health has not provided information about water quality and water safety during the 2013 flood event, many people are assuming that the lake is safe for swimming and there has been no impact on the water quality of local wells. This lack of information has created a false sense of security which could lead to health issues,” read the board’s July 5 letter to Interior Health.

“During a flood emergency, it is imperative that information be provided to the public quickly to alleviate fears and ensure the safety of residents and visitors.”

In Interior Health’s response, Parsonage also explained that Interior Health has posted information about well testing on its website and attended open houses in the East Kootenay to provide that information.

He also said Interior Health contacted B.C. Parks to collect samples at Wasa’s beaches in early July.

“We continue to offer support to beach operators where either elevated risk or high use has been identified, including supplying sample containers, shipping, paying lab costs and interpreting results.”

Area E Director Jane Walter thanked the board for supporting Wasa over the issue. She said that soon after the letter was sent, she met with Interior Health staff at Wasa to talk about well testing and lake quality.

“I still have concerns that we had to push so hard in order to secure help from Interior Health,” she added.

Meanwhile, on Friday, August 2, the board approved $1,500 in funding for the Wasa Lake Land Improvement District to take samples of the lake intermittently this summer.