Residents of Shady Acres in Charlie Lake haven't been able to safely drink their water since 2019, and the community is now gathering this week to discuss what they’re going to do about it.
Cassandra Ross, who lives in the trailer court, has organized the meeting taking place at the community hall Tuesday, March 7, at 7 p.m.
Ross explains the intention of the meeting is to find out what residents are looking for in regards to a solution, and to gather a list of questions residents want answered from the health authority and property managers.
The residents are dealing with an ongoing issue of high concentrations of manganese in their water, which is a substance that becomes more concentrated if it’s boiled.
In 2019, Health Canada set new health-based drinking water guidelines for manganese, an essential element present in various foods. High concentrations can cause discoloured water and staining, but new research found it also impacts health. Long-term exposure in high concentrations impact childhood development, especially for infants who are fed formula prepared with tap water.
In June, Northern Health sent a newsletter to water system operators to inform them of the new guidelines and then in February 2020 informed the operators of trailer court that the water tested above the acceptable concentrations of manganese.
Residents say they weren't made aware of the manganese issue until April 2022, when a boil water advisory was given regarding E. coli bacteria found in the water. Ross says she was given a boil water notice for the E. coli along with a manganese notice that said not to boil the water.
“They're saying boil the water so you could use it, but saying you can't boil your water; so, you are telling me I can’t touch my water at all,” said Ross regarding the contradictory notices.
“And that's when we figured out we can't boil our water at all because the manganese — that's when I finally figured that part out.”
After residents complained, Ross says the trailer court was given a “do not consume” notice until Northern Health inspected the water. A few days later, the community was placed on a general water quality advisory regarding the high manganese concentrations.
She says that’s when Sterling Property Management began supplying residents with bottled water. While there have been attempts to fix the water system at Shady Acres, the water is still testing high for manganese. A Feb. 21 update from Northern Health said, "Samples submitted show manganese is not effectively being removed," adding "Further adjustments and sampling required."
“As it stands, we've been waiting for a year. This all went down last April. We're kind of sick and tired of waiting and at this point. Nobody's done anything,” said Ross. “This has been going on technically since 2019 and nobody's done anything to rectify the situation.”
Ross says the upcoming community meeting will give Shady Acres residents a chance to find out more information and discuss their next steps.
“If we have to, then we see what the next step is, whether that's going to be legal, whether that's going to be a lawsuit, or whether that's going to be going to an ombudsman,” she said.
“That's going to depend on what the tenants want to do and whether or not Sterling is going to do anything to fix it.”
Ross says both Northern Health and Sterling Property Management have been invited to attend the meeting. Both have been contacted for comment.