APRIL 11 – Mayor Robert Quaiff has officially ended the County’s state of emergency as water sampling results received Monday confirmed that contamination in Picton Bay no longer poses a significant threat to drinking water.
“According to the report, no product was found in recent days and the bay generally has lower than detectable levels of hydrocarbons,” said Quaiff at an Emergency Control Group media conference Tuesday morning at Shire Hall. “Having received these results I am comfortable with reducing our level of alertness.”
McKeil Marine, led the salvage operation of a partially submerged barge in Picton Bay. Two five-gallon (19-litre) containers believed to be a mixture of diesel and hydraulic oil spilled from the barge. McKeil retained Pinchin Ltd., an environmental, engineering, health and safety consulting firm, to develop a water monitoring program, as required by the Ministry of Environment and Climate Control.
The mayor declared the water emergency as a result of contaminants approaching the zone of the water intake that serves Picton and Bloomfield at 7p.m. on Tuesday, March 28th. Water processing at the Picton plant was stopped.
Hastings Prince Edward Public Health issued a Boil Water Advisory the following morning for residents and businesses connected to the distribution system as a precaution against potential bacterial contamination from water hauling efforts put in place to maintain the reservoir water supply while the Picton plant was shut down.
Although the Boil Water Advisory was lifted April 6th, the municipality maintained its state of emergency until the water monitoring program performed by Pinchin could be reviewed. Pinchin provided its report to the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change on Friday, April 7th.
The mayor explained that under the provincial government’s Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, a municipality may declare a state of emergency in a situation that poses a heightened risk to the health and safety of residents. By declaring, municipalities are able to access resources, and some funding, that would otherwise not be available.
It also allows municipal emergency control group to bypass some municipal procedures that would cause an unacceptable delay in responding to the immediate needs of the community.
“The decision to declare an emergency was not one that we took lightly,” the mayor said. “We responded to a threat to our largest drinking water system, and we were able to efficiently and effectively implement contingency plans to keep the water system operational and protect our residents from that threat.”
He said a diligent water sampling and monitoring program will continue at the Picton plant, and the municipality has begun considering how best to avoid a similar incident in the future.
“Residents can be confident in the quality and safety of the water service that the County provides,” said Quaiff. “I think this incident has confirmed the high level of caution and care that our water operators take in managing our drinking water systems. I couldn’t be more proud of our response, or more thankful for the support that we received from our partners throughout the region.”
He confirmed there will be conversation about perhaps expanding the Wellington intake and getting rid of the water intake in Picton, with staff and council, which includes weighing the extra expense and liability exposure for insurance and having piece of mind with the water drawn.
A $737,948 grant announced yesterday by Minister of Agriculture Jeff Leal, from the Ontario Community Infrastructure Fund, will assist the Picton plant in work under way to rehabilitate filters, improve the chlorine system and upgrade some structural elements at the plant. The funding will also help examine making changes to the carbon filter system to better handle an incident like a hydrocarbon discharge.
Praise from the Premier on County’s water emergency
APRIL 8 – Premier Kathleen Wynne praised Prince Edward County Mayor Robert Quaiff, his council, staff, and all involved, for their efforts during the ongoing State of Emergency.
In a personal call to Quaiff Friday afternoon, Wynne was also checking up on services provided by various provincial agencies during the precautionary Boil Water Advisory issued March 30 for users of the local drinking water system, and lifted a week later, Thursday, April 6, following testing to show the water meets provincial water quality standards.
“She asked if there was anything I needed from her government and she also wanted to know if we received sufficient services by the various ministries involved,” said Quaiff, who noted he shared praise for all involved.
“She gave myself, council and all staff praise for the professionalism and care we took in protecting our residents’ health, safety and well-being. A lot of eyes were watching and everyone agreed we were a model others can learn from.”
Quaiff, during the media conference with the County’s Emergency Control Group last Thursday, said the ‘State of Emergency’ status continues and water sampling continues at a higher frequency than normal “until we are confident there is no longer a heightened risk of contamination.”
McKeil Marine, which led the salvage operation of a partially submerged barge in Picton Bay, has retained Pinchin Ltd., an environmental, engineering, health and safety consulting firm, to develop a water monitoring program, as required by the Ministry of Environment and Climate Control.
A report is expected early next week.
Boil Water Advisory lifted
April 6 – The Boil Water Advisory issued last Thursday, has been lifted by Hastings Prince Edward Public Health, and the burn ban is off, but the County remains in a ‘State of Emergency’, possibly until early next week.
All residents and businesses using the Picton Bloomfield drinking water system, and those using private shore wells, can resume normal use of water without bringing it to a boil.
The County’s Emergency Control Group confirmed water being produced by the water plant meets all provincial water quality standards. The group made the announcement Thursday at Shire Hall.
Mayor Robert Quaiff said the water plant has resumed normal operations and water was flowing to the Picton and Bloomfield water distribution system Wednesday evening. The County’s water hauling efforts ended shortly thereafter.
“We will continue a diligent water sampling program, at a higher frequency than normal, until we are confident there is no longer a heightened risk of contamination,” said Quaiff.
McKeil Marine, leading the salvage operation, has retained Pinchin Ltd., an environmental, engineering, health and safety consulting firm, to develop a water monitoring program, as required by the Ministry of Environment and Climate Control.
“We will remain in a ‘State of Emergency’ until such time we are confident that contamination in Picton Bay no longer poses a threat to the drinking water system,” said Quiaff. “The County will await the results of water sampling program before terminating the ‘State of Emergency’, anticipated for early next week.”
The mayor expressed thanks to the many people involved in responding to this emergency, as well as those impacted by it over the past few weeks.
“Residents and businesses in Picton and Bloomfield have had to boil their water for a week now. To add to that, we’ve seen that many residents took great measures to conserve their water since that initial request was made almost two weeks ago,” said Quaiff. “I know this situation has complicated people’s lives, especially for some of our local businesses. It has been a frustrating experience for many and I am very thankful that people have been so understanding throughout this process.”
He added he is “incredibly proud” of the response from the community – water haulers from around the region, residents who volunteered time and money to help keep those water haulers fed while they trucked continuously between Picton and the various water systems.
He was also thankful for the support of neighbouring municipalities, upper levels of government, MPP Todd Smith and MP Neil Ellis and Hastings Prince Edward Public Health and the emergency control group members.
“This has been a long and challenging situation and everyone has worked tirelessly for its resolution.”
Emergency Management Control Group chair, Fire Chief Scott Manlow is pleased that when the emergency was declared, all members knew their roles and functions, as practiced over the years.
“We were, and are, prepared,” said Manlow. “As in every exercise and event we will have a de-brief and that will be the time we will be able to critique what went well and what lessons we can learn.
The fire department’s Picton station distributed just under 1,000 10-litre jugs of water, free-of-charge, to residents in need over the last three days.
CAO James Hepburn said it’s premature to comment on the first talks yesterday with County solicitors to initiate claims against those responsible for the incident and applying for emergency funding from the provincial government.
It is expected the incident will bring renewed talks to the horseshoe at Shire Hall around the Picton intake, and piping water from Wellington.
“In my mind, environmental assessment needs to be re-examined,” said Robert McAuley, Commissioner of Engineering, Development and Works. “The risks would have to be re-visited.”
“Certainly there’s a heightened awareness… we will be asking other levels of government to assist in any changes in the source… They can be part of the solution as the problem is clearly beyond the municipality by itself. It involves other levels of government… I’d like to see us come to some solution on that. We have to go through the analysis, costs and put a proposal together.”
He noted Source Water Protection is one of the key instruments that has been used in detection, but also can be used in prevention.
“The work that’s been done has been great and the modelling that has been done has been useful in trying to manage it, but I think we should go back and take a look at the work that’s been done. Risks may need to be re-evaluated, the boundaries may need to be adjusted, but to my mind that is one of the things that we can do to identify the bay as an important drinking water source. From that decision come other bylaws and adjustments that affect other parties. It’s another area we can concentrate some effort.”
He noted another positive outcome of this incident was within the water treatment plant.
“We have identified that the method of treatment needs to be enhanced in order to deal with this kind of event, like a hydrocarbon discharge, and we’re putting in place those alterations to the filters so when or if it happens again we shouldn’t have to do a complete shut down.”
Talk about the use of Picton Bay in relation to barges hauling aggregate for Amherst Island’s industrial wind turbines project is largely out of the County’s jurisdiction.
“Other agencies that are in charge of industrial wind turbines, the MOE, the MNR, Ministry of Transport, that’s all their area of jurisdiction and would be who deals with that, not us.”
Boil Water Advisory could be lifted Thursday; Transport Canada investigating the incident
APRIL 5 – The County’s Emergency Control Group anticipates delivering good news for residents Thursday afternoon that the week-long precautionary Boil Water Advisory will be lifted and the water plant servicing Picton and Bloomfield residents will be back online.
County CAO James Hepburn said talks will begin today with lawyers to start the process of making claims against various people responsible for the incident and determining whether the County will apply for emergency funding through the provincial government.
Transport Canada will also be deciding if it will punish McKeil Marine. It inspected the vessel and ordered the company to make temporary repairs before its trip to Kingston, then transited to Toronto where further repairs are being done.
In a statement today, it said the department “will take appropriate action should any contraventions of the Canada Shipping Act 2001 be found.” The statute lays out regulations for shipping and navigation and punishments for companies that pollute Canadian waters or fail to follow proper safety rules.
The incident began Thursday, March 23 when a Pitts Carillion barge docked at Picton Terminals, on Picton Bay was found to be three-quarters submerged. On Friday, March 24 a spill of what is believed to be about 30 litres of a fuel mixture was observed. The barge was refloated Sunday, April 2. Galcon Marine’s barge left Picton Bay Monday, April 3, enroute to Toronto. McKeil Marine, leading the salvage operation, remains involved with environmental engineering, health and safety consulting firms.
At the Emergency Control Group press conference Thursday morning, Emergency Control Group member Barry Turpin spoke on behalf of the mayor, who was unable to attend.
“All water samples from the plant have met the standards for safe, potable drinking water,” he said. “We are confident in the safety of the water currently being produced by the plant. We have also established a heightened monitoring procedure at the plant.”
He said the County anticipates official agreement from the Ministry of Environment and Climate Control by the end of Wednesday to switch the plant’s valves and pumps to direct water to the re-distribution system. For the past few days it has been declorinated and put back into the bay.
Heidi Pereira, McKeil Marine’s marketing and communications manager, also said Wednesday morning that “water samples to date have met the analytical requirements of the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change for both potable and drinking water standards.”
She said McKeil is continuing to test daily and is working with Pinchin Ltd., an environmental, engineering, health and safety consulting firm to develop a water monitoring program, as required by the MOECC.
Boil Water Advisory could be lifted within days
UPDATE APRIL 4 – The Boil Water Advisory could be lifted as early as Thursday if testing at the water plant that serves Picton and Bloomfield continue to be “extremely encouraging”.
Mayor Robert Quaiff, at the County’s Emergency Control Group media conference Tuesday, said the plant was started up Monday and re-started Tuesday to test water quality and move toward full operation.
“The system has been running with tanked/delivered water for a number of days and we will want to make sure the system’s chemistry is where it should be,” said Robert McAuley Commissioner of Engineering, Development and Works, noting it will then be up to the health unit to remove the Boil Water Advisory.
The mayor noted Tuesday’s water haulage was less than desired due to the Ministry of Transportation deciding to conduct inspections of trucks. He said that caused a loss of about 200,000 litres of water delivered, but the reservoirs are still at acceptable levels.
McAuley said deliveries of water have been in the vicinity of 1,800 cubic metres a day from the shuttling of water from the Wellington and Rossmore systems and Tyendinaga to the Macaulay reservoir since the Boil Water Advisory was put into effect Thursday, March 30.
Those who need bulk water can get it from the Wellington Community Centre, or receive two 10-litre jugs per day, free of charge from the Fire Department, on McDonald Drive in Picton. While the advisory is in effect, there is also a complete Burn Ban in the County.
The plant was shut down as a safety precaution Thursday, March 30 following reports of a smell of hydrocarbons, and the Boil Water Advisory was put into place by the Hastings Prince Edward Public Health because the County is unable to properly test the delivered water for bacteria.
The ‘State of Emergency’ was declared Tuesday, March 28 as a precaution after contaminants entered the water pipe’s intake zone, but not into the pipe itself.
“When a municipality declares a State of Emergency it provides us with a number of actions and resources that otherwise would not be available,” said Quaiff, noting provincial regulations changes after the Walkerton E. Coli outbreak in 2000. In new regulations, members of the emergency committee can be considered personally responsible for their actions and can be held liable. The declaration can also provides financial benefits.
Mayor Quaiff has stated the declaration also opened better lines of communication between the County and the various provincial and federal agencies – including Transport Canada, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, the Canadian Coast Guard and the Eastern Canada Response Corporation.
Seven people died at Walkerton and thousands became ill when the community’s water supply became contaminated due to farm runoof into an adjacent well. The Walkerton Public Utilities Commission did not admit to the contamination immediately. The Walkerton Report made 93 recommendations that influenced new provincial policy, despite some complaints that increased regulations have increased costs for municipalities.
The County is covering costs of the incident upfront, then will determine what assistance, from where, is possible following an evaluation of the incident when operations have returned to normal and the Boil Water Advisory is lifted by the health unit.
The incident began Thursday, March 23 when a Pitts Carillion barge docked at Picton Terminals, on Picton Bay was found to be three-quarters submerged. On Friday, March 24 a spill of what is believed to be about 30 litres of a fuel mixture was observed. The barge was refloated Sunday, April 2.
Galcon Marine’s barge left Picton Bay Monday, April 3, enroute to Toronto. McKeil Marine, leading the salvage operation, remains involved with environmental engineering, health and safety consulting firms. Additionally, McKeil received direction under the Ontario Water Resources Act which outlines a series of steps to detect and address concerns that may remain with assistance of the environmental consulting firm Pinchin.
Transport Canada will be conducting a full investigation. The Canadian Coast Guard began demobilizing Monday. The Ministry of Environment and Climate Control remains on site conducting water samples.
Barge has left Picton Bay; Boil Water Advisory still on
April 3 – The barge has left Picton bay and is enroute to Galcon Marine in Toronto.
Mayor Robert Quaiff, in a press conference Monday morning, said the goal now is to “ensure water quality so our residents can stop boiling water.”
The Boil Water Advisory remains in effect. The County is gearing up to restart the water treatment plan – possibly Wednesday, but not until testing demonstrates clean, safe water.
The advisory remains until lifted by Hastings Prince Edward Public Health.
Residents who need water free of charge can receive two 10 litre jugs per day from the Picton Firehall on McDonald Drive in Picton (7a.m. to 11p.m.).
McKeil Marine, leading the salvage operation, stated Monday that although the salvage operation is complete, the company remains involved with environmental, engineering, health and safety consulting firms.
Additionally, McKeil, received direction under the Ontario Water Resources Act which outlines a series of steps to detect and address environmental concerns that may remain.
McKeil is working with the environmental engineering consulting firm Pinchin, a company recommended by the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change.
The order also requires an action plan should any contaminants be detected. A plan has been submitted to the province, and approved. As part of that plan, McKeil is completing daily water readings across multiple locations. Test results will be shared with the MOECC.
Beware water test scammers
UPDATE Sunday, April 2 – With the partially submerged barge in Picton Bay refloated Saturday afternoon, the next step is examination of its outside and internal compartments by Transport Canada. It is expected to be removed Monday and traffic in and out of Picton Terminals has been approved to continue.
Following reports of incidents, the municipality reminds residents that municipal water operators do not request access to private residences for the purpose of gathering water samples, unless called on by the property owner to investigate.
If you have not called the municipality for assistance, and an individual requests access to your home, you should decline access and report the incident to the OPP.
The Boil Water Advisory remains in effect as haulage of treated water to the County continues. A bulk water station is open at the Community Centre in Wellington. Work to open a station at Picton’s Fire Hall, on McDonald Drive, is under way.
Along with deliveries from private haulers to fill the reservoir at Macaulay, the County has been shuttling water to the Picton Bloomfield water system from the Wellington and Rossmore systems. Residents in all those locations are asked to take measures to reduce their water consumption to minimize stress on the water processing plants.
Water near the intake pipe is being tested regularly by the Canadian Coast Guard. And while planning continues to restart the Picton Bloomfield water supply plant, it won’t be done until samples are cleared. The Ministry of Environment and Climate Change has issued an order to McKeil Marine, leading the salvage operation, to retain qualified consultants to investigate environmental impacts on the County’s water system and private shoreline wells.
For concerns regarding the drinking water system, contact the County’s emergency after hours water services line at 613-967-8777.
Barge in Picton Bay refloated Saturday
UPDATE Saturday, April 1 – The barge partially submerged in Picton Bay was successfully refloated early Saturday afternoon, its deck now fully out of the water.
“Through expertise and teamwork we were able to refloat the barge safely,” said Chris Kirby, Director of Project Management at McKeil Marine Limited, and Salvage Master for the Pitts Carillon operation.
Kirby noted thanks in the collaborative process and massive team effort, thanking the Canadian Coast Guard, Transport Canada, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and ECRC (Eastern Canada Response Corporation) for their support and collaboration throughout the operation.
Efforts to reposition the barge closer to the dock and the removal of two 12,000 tonne spuds, he said made the barge lighter, and easier to manoeuvre. An additional layer of boom was also added, encircling the barge in four layers of containment as a precaution.
“Through yesterday’s efforts, the spud on the port side was successfully removed, however, the starboard spud proved extremely difficult,” said Kirby. “The team decided to proceed with repositioning and preparing for refloating with the spud intact.”
Working well into the night preparing the barge for refloating and dewatering, the operation was paused to enable the team to be well-rested for Saturday morning’s work, set to resume at first light. The barge was refloated by early afternoon.
“The next step in the salvage process will be a comprehensive examination of the outside of the barge and all internal compartments. The results of these inspections will determine the final outcomes for the barge.”
The Canadian Coast Guard continues to monitor and ensure appropriate actions are taken to protect the marine environment during salvage operations.
The vessel will be inspected by Transport Canada.
Extra counter-pollution measures were put in place for the recovery, and the Coast Guard is mindful of the concerns regarding the drinking water intake, and any possible impacts to the fish habitat and surrounding marine environment.
The Canadian Coast Guard and contracted marine response organization ECRC continue to adjust and utilize containment boom (a floating barrier) to contain any product. Special vacuums are being used to collect pollution on the water.
Continued water sampling is also taking place. The Canadian Coast Guard is assisting in collection of water samples with the Provincial Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change.
The Coast Guard continues to work with Environment Canada and Climate Change (ECCC) and Transport Canada, along with the municipality, the province and the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte First Nation, monitoring water and surrounding marine environment, until satisfied the barge is stable and secure.
MOECC issues order to investigate environmental impacts
UPDATE Saturday, April 1 – Mayor Robert Quaiff, in his public update Saturday at noon, said the County has been made aware the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change has issued an order to McKeil Marine under the Ontario Water Resources Act to retain qualified consultants to investigate the environment impacts on the County’s water system and private shoreline wells.
Work continues to open a bulk water station in Picton. A station was opened at the Wellington Community Centre on Friday.
TWO UPDATES MARCH 31, 5PM:
Bulk water now available at Wellington
The bulk water dispensing station is open in Wellington for residents who wish to purchase treated water. The County is also working to install a unit in Picton.
The unit is at the Wellington and District Community Centre – 111 Belleville Street, Wellington
The dispensing unit has a 1” connection and is coin operated. The current bulk water rate is $3.07 per cubic metre (1,000 litres).
The recommended maximum size of container for use with the unit is 1 cubic metre (1,000 litres). Larger trucks/containers cannot be accommodated. Those wishing to use the unit are advised to bring a clean connecting hose at least 15 feet in length.
Coast Guard says lifting of the barge begins today
APRIL 1 – The Canadian Coast Guard continues to monitor and provide additional environmental response staff and on-water pollution control measures.
In a statement late this afternoon from the Coast Guard anticipated the lifting of the barge would begin late today.
“The operation will continue as planned, and once it has been lifted and secured, the next steps will involve dewatering the barge, conducting a risk assessment for removing fuel from the barge, and a Transport Canada inspection.
“The barge is encircled in four layers of containment boom. Over 6,000 feet of boom, sorbent material and a vacuum skimmer are at the ready. If needed, the skimmer will be picking up any sheen in the boomed areas, shorelines, and areas of highest risk, starting near the water intake area.”
A Canadian Coast Guard helicopter flew over Picton Bay Thursday morning to conduct an assessment of the site. A crew aboard one of its vessels is also checking the shorelines for marine pollution.
The Canadian Coast Guard has an alerting network for reporting marine pollution incidents and mystery spills. The toll free number to call is 1-800-265-0237 (24 hours). The Coast Guard appreciates hearing from the public about any sightings of marine pollution so that the report can be properly investigated.
Barge being repositioned for removal; bulk water stations coming as Boil Water Advisory continues
UPDATE FRIDAY, MARCH 31 NOON – The salvage operation to recover the partially submerged barge in Picton Bay continues Friday with the removal of stability “spuds” and repositioning it closer to the shore where heavy cranes are being prepared to haul it out of the water.
McKeil Marine is leading the salvage operation of the barge, (owned by Galcon Marine), working with Transport Canada, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, the Canadian Coast Guard and the Eastern Canada Response Corporation (ECRC).
In a statement today, McKeil said the salvage plan consists of a series of incremental manoeuvers. Efforts to date have been focused on repositioning the barge closer to the shoreline.
“The barge is outfitted with large spuds that can be descended to the bottom of the lakebed to provide stability. The spuds weigh approximately 12 tonnes each. There is one spud still on the barge. Removal of this final spud will make it easier to reposition the barge.
“After the barge is repositioned, dewatering will begin. Focus will then turn to examination of holding tanks.
As a precaution, the barge is surrounded by three perimeters of pollution boom.”
Mayor Robert Quaiff, in a press conference Friday at noon, said no more gravel is being loaded onto ships and barges from Picton Terminals for now.
Mayor Robert Quaiff said all involved, including the owners of Picton Terminals, agreed it would be a good idea to stop the loading of gravel while officials deal with the removal of the barge and fuel spill.
Quaiff, noting the Boil Water Advisory put in place Thursday continues, thanked all involved in ensuring water gets to affected residents who use the Picton and Bloomfield supply.
The Picton Water Plant remains shut down and the system is being replenished by water haulers from the County’s other water systems, in Wellington and Rossmore, and from some of our neighbouring municipalities.
“The Tyendinaga Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte First Nations are generously contributing water free of charge as part of this process. We have received offers of assistance – including water and manpower – from all of our neighbouring municipalities. The outpouring of support from the region has been incredible. ”
He said the nature of the shuttling of water by nine or 10 haulers at three to four loads per hour to the Macaulay reservoir means the County cannot process the incoming treated water to its normal standards and that is the reason for the precautionary Boil Water Advisory. It will remain in effect until lifted by the Hastings Prince Edward Counties Health Unit.
“Fortunately, as a result of our water hauling efforts and our residents’ conservation efforts, the reservoirs have remained at relatively stable levels.”
The County is also working to install bulk water stations in Wellington and Picton for residents to use – with more details to come Friday afternoon.
Fire Chief Scott Manlow has also issued a Burn Ban in the County to avoid unnecessary water use that would overtax resources.
Work is also under way to get the water plant up and running again.
“We are working closely with officials from the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change, They are working overtime to process water samples from the plant and surrounding water,” said Quaiff. “Our samples are getting priority testing in their labs. Results we have got so far have been extremely encouraging.”
Robert McAuley, Commissioner of Engineer, Development and Works, said the contaminants have all the complex chemistry expected with an oil spill. He reported low detection limits at the intake zone that can be smelled, but not measured, and dectectable limits at the ice level. “I stress these are not in the system. We can smell it, but can’t measure it.”
He is watching for test results and input from Ministry of Environment and Climate Change to help determine what to expect as the ice melts and moves through the water and how to treat it.
“From that we are able to start formulating a plan, restart our filters and re-establish the distribution system. It’s gong to be days away but there is light at the end fo the tunnel.”
Quaiff said he remains in contact with several provincial ministers who have offered support, as well as MP Neil Ellis, and MPP Todd Smith.
“This is a constant effort of monitoring, planning, communicating and consulting, he said. “I would also like to highlight the extraordinary efforts of all the people who have been involved in handling this emergency. We have had our customer service staff fielding questions from residents endlessly for the last few days and working overtime to ensure that residents are able to get the information they need. Our water operators have been working around the clock monitoring the situation and developing plans.”
Boil water advisory for Picton Bloomfield; considerations for those using shore wells
UPDATE THURSDAY noon – A precautionary boil water advisory has been set for people who use the Picton Bloomfield drinking water system as a result of the discovery of a foul odor in the Picton raw water sampling line (an early warning system).
“No contaminants are known to have entered the water system,” said Mayor Robert Quaiff at a press conference at noon Thursday. “Indications of contamination from the sampling line served as a warning to ensure that no contaminants were drawn into the intake itself.”
The County has stopped water processing at the Picton plant and will begin shuttling treated water from other potable water sources today. As a result, a precautionary boil water advisory for all customers connected to that system has been implemented by the Hastings and Prince Edward Counties Health Unit.
Because a number of water supply trucks will be used to shuttle water, the Boil Water Advisory is being implemented as a precautionary measure to reduce the risk from the possible introduction of bacteria to the drinking water system.
Hastings Prince Edward Public Health is asking all individuals drawing a private drinking water supply (i.e. using a shore well) from the Picton Bay area to consider the following:
If a chemical sheen is within 50 feet (15 metres) of your well do not drink the water.
If the well water has changed in taste, odour or colour do not drink the water.
If chemicals have entered your well boiling the water will not make it safe.
If you even suspect your well water is impacted:
Use an alternate water source, such as bottled water, for drinking and other domestic purposes
Test your well water once this current issue has been resolved.
Any individuals drawing private water supply from Picton Bay may direct inquiries to HPEPH at 613-966-5500 x 677.
The County has been in contact with other communities to find answers on how to remove fuel should it enter the plant.
“It is not as prevalent as one might think,” said Robert McAuley Commissioner of Engineer, Development and Works. “So far, nobody appears to know how to treat fuel-tainted water.”
Samples have been send for testing and expect to see results “in days, not weeks”.
Earlier today a Coast Guard helicopter was flying around the Bay to inspect the situation. It is unknown how long it will take to lift the partially submerged barge.
Customers are asked to bring water to a rapid boil for at least one minute prior to using it for domestic purposes (e.g. drinking, making infant formula and juice, brushing teeth, washing raw foods and making ice). A copy of “How to Use Water Safely During a Boil Water Advisory” is attached to this email and will be made available on the County’s website: www.thecounty.ca/county-residents/construction-closures-and-service-disruptions/.
The Boil Water Advisory will remain in place until lifted by the Health Unit.
Customers connected to the Picton/Bloomfield system are also urged to continue practicing water conservation measures and avoid any non-essential water use until the emergency state is lifted.
The County is also seeking people with the ability to transport more than 5,000 gallons of treated water as additional haulage capacity will be welcomed. Call 613.476.2148 ext. 1023 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Water state of emergency continues; residents asked to continue to conserve
UPDATE WEDNESDAY 6p.m. – A State of Water Emergency remains in effect and Prince Edward County anticipates it will shut off its plant processing for Picton and Bloomfield drinking water again tonight, resuming operation Thursday morning.
“Processing at the plant was shut down at 7 p.m. Tuesday as a precautionary measure to ensure the safety of the drinking water,” said Mayor Robert Quaiff at a press conference Wednesday afternoon. “The plant resumed operation at 7:30 a.m. Wednesday to replenish the system’s reservoirs.”
While no sheen has entered the Picton Bay water intake, it has entered its protection zone.
Weather and darkness of night affect the decision. Wind, ice thaw and rough water can affect the effectiveness of the containment booms placed around the sheen of unconfirmed contaminants, believed to be a combination of diesel and hydraulic fluids. The sheen is not easily observed in the darkness.
“Residents connected to the Picton-Bloomfield drinking water system are asked to take measures to reduce their water consumption to ensure that reservoirs are not depleted before the plant can resume operations,” said Quaiff. No other water systems in the County are affected.
Water conservation is extended to County facilities. There is no ice maintenance at the arenas and the H.J. McFarland Memorial Home is also on essential-use only for water. Firefighters are filling tankers from alternate water resources. Arrangements have also been made with neighbouring departments.
“Our neighbouring municipalities have kindly offered us bulk water distribution systems should we need them,” said Quaiff. “And we have connected with a bottled water supplier to ensure they have sufficient stock if required. However that is a very faint possibility at this point in time.”
The County has been informed by the Canadian Coast Guard that the size of the sheen being seen on the bay is consistent with a spill from two five gallon (19 litre) containers of fuel. McKeil Marine, leading the salvage operation, said onsite divers confirm there is no pollution coming from the barge.
Robert McAuley, Commissioner of Engineering, Development and Works said it is possible the containers went adrift while the barge was sinking.
“We have asked for continued testing,” said McAuley. “We do want to know exactly what it is to be fully prepared in the case that it enters our system.”
McAuley said enacting the state of emergency protocols are a little scary to put into place, “not because we are unprepared, but because of the magnitude of the potential risk. We’ve had smaller more localized incidents we were able to deal with fairly quickly. This one is long, and protracted because of the presence of the ice, because of the size.”
From that perspective, McAuley notes it has been an eductional experience with the County and the outside agencies involved learning from each other.
The County learned is it a higher risk to remove the 1200 litres of diesel fuel and 100 litres of hydraulic fluid in a double-walled tank on the barge prior to lifting it.
“Lines of communication have been good. It has certainly been informative on our side as to how they communicate, how they have to respond and what they have to do,” said McAuley. “But they’ve also been educated on issues near drinking water intakes and I think they have a new appreciation of what that means.”
The county has a representative at the site to provide advance warning to water system operators in the event any contaminants enter the water system during the salvage operation. It could wrap up as early as end of day Thursday.
The County’s Emergency Control Group will meet again tomorrow morning at the Picton Fire Hall. Members include Mayor Quaiff, CAO James Hepburn, Commissioner of Engineering, Development and Works Robert McAuley, Fire Chief Scott Manlow, councillor Barry Turpin, County Clerk Kim White and Communications Co-ordinator Lisa McLennan as well as representatives from the OPP, Public Health and Social Services.
Water plant operations resume; residents asked to continue to conserve
UPDATE WEDNESDAY 10a.m. – The water plant serving Picton and Bloomfield has resumed operation to refill system storage and continues to be monitored.
“Contrary to some news reports, no contaminants have entered the system,” said Quaiff. “Water is still safe to drink for those users connected to the Picton-Bloomfield Drinking Water System. No other water systems are affected.”
The mayor declared a state of emergency Tuesday night as a precaution after contaminants from a partially submerged barge entered the intake zone, but did not flow into the pipe.
The County is asking residents in Picton and Bloomfield to limit their water use to essential needs only to ensure that sufficient reserves are in place should the plant need to be shut down again.
Efforts to recover the barge continue today.
Mayor declares water emergency
UPDATED: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday – Mayor Robert Quaiff has declared a water emergency as a result of contaminants approaching the Picton-Bloomfield water intake.
At approximately 4:30 pm today, the contaminants entered the Picton Intake Protection Zone 1. Due to the proximity of the contaminants, and anticipated unfavourable wind directions overnight, the County has decided to halt water processing at the Picton-Bloomfield drinking water plant until such time as the safety of the water can be confirmed.
“The municipality has ensured that the drinking water system has been supplied with enough potable drinking water to handle demands until tomorrow, however, residents connected to the Picton-Bloomfield drinking water system are asked to limit their water consumption until the water emergency has been lifted,” said Mayor Quaiff. “The County ensures residents will be kept up-to-date as to the status of the emergency.”
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UPDATED Tuesday: The County has activated its Emergency Control Group as a precautionary measure as recovery of a partially submerged barge continues on Picton Bay at the Picton Terminals site. Recovery is set for Wednesday, weather permitting.
The County was notified Friday that about two-thirds of the barge was submerged. While told ice on the bay acted like sandpaper and caused a two-foot-square hole, it has since been learned there is no evidence of a hole in the barge (of any size), and there is no determination yet for what caused the bow of the barge to become submerged.
Two five gallon (19-litre) buckets of fuel on the deck of the barge formed a sheen on the bay and was contained by the Eastern Canada Response Corporation in booms. The Canadian Coast Guard remains on scene to supervise.
Approximately 1,200 litres of diesel fuel and 100 litres of hydraulic fluid remain in a double-walled tank on the 27-metre Pitts Carillon barge, owned by Galcon Marine and chartered by McKeil Marine as a temporary dock and work platform. The barge is 90 feet (27 metres) long, 40 feet (12 metres) wide and eight feet (two metres) deep. It arrived at Picton Terminals Thursday evening.
A statement from McKeil Marine says the breaking up and melting of ice in the area has caused sheen on the water between the dock and barge which is about 50 feet (15 metres) offshore. That is to be captured with an expanded pollution boom put in place Tuesday.
“It is believed that this sheen is comprised of the small amount of pollutants that were released when the bow of the barge initially became submerged,” said McKeil in a statment. “There is no evidence of leakage from the barge.”
Mayor Robert Quaiff activated the measure Monday night due to the proximity of the barge to the Picton-Bloomfield water intake and the potential for contaminants to enter the water during the salvage phase.
“Should additional contaminants enter the bay, the municipality is prepared to declare a state of emergency and implement further procedures to protect the safety of the Picton Bloomfield drinking water system,” said Quaiff.
“The risk, although believed to be quite low, was deemed sufficiently high to engage the Emergency Control Group,” he said.
Quaiff said the munipality’s primary concern is for the protection of the Picton-Bloomfield drinking water system.
“In accordance with the contingency plan, the water system reservoirs have been filled in order to maximize the system’s ability to sustain any potential treatment plant shutdown.”
The County water operators are monitoring the plant regularly for evidence of contamination approaching the intake and the municipality is prepared to stop taking water from the bay if necessary.
“To add to the already nightmarish situation of literally tons of salt pouring into the Picton Bay, the County is now facing further contamination from a Friday night barge accident,” said Michael Hymus, who lives next door to the Picton Terminals site. “The accident is yet another stark reminder of the dangers of re-opening the long derelict Picton Terminals which sits proximate to the town’s drinking water… From where I am standing overlooking the bay there is definitely something in the water.”
Hymus is among more than 120 residents who formed the Save Picton Bay group in November to hear concerns about the deep marine port on White Chapel Road, in light of more than a dozen work orders issued by the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change, related to contamination of water, air and land. (Click here for background)
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