The Village of Pemberton (VOP) has issued a public advisory over the quality of its drinking water after a sample of 20 homes found elevated levels of lead.
In some cases, lead concentrations were as high as six times the Maximum Acceptable Concentration (MAC) prescribed in the Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality, the VOP said in a release.
Lead in drinking water can cause a number of adverse health effects, particularly for children, infants and unborn children.
"We want to reassure the public that there is NO lead contamination in the provision of drinking water to the citizens of Pemberton from our source. We test our water supply regularly at different locations and Vancouver Coastal Health has confirmed that the municipal water supply is safe to drink," Pemberton Mayor Mike Richman said in the release.
"How our low pH water interacts with the plumbing of some individuals' homes is where we've discovered there is an issue, and we are taking immediate steps to do more testing, inform the public and take corrective action."
Out of the 20 homes sampled, 12 came back with elevated levels of lead — anywhere from two to six times acceptable levels.
More sampling will be done to verify the results early next week.
For now, the VOP is advising residents to flush their tap water until it turns cold prior to drinking it or using it for cooking, and not to boil water, which may increase the concentration of lead.
"Water that has become stagnant from sitting in pipes for prolonged periods of time, such as overnight or during vacations, is most at risk of being contaminated. Once the lines have been flushed, water collected for drinking water, cooking, preparing baby formula and teeth brushing can be stored in a suitable container and kept refrigerated to assist with water conservation," the release said.
Asked what the message is for concerned citizens and parents in Pemberton, Dr. Paul Martiquet, chief medical officer for Vancouver Coastal Health’s rural regions, said it’s important to put it into perspective.
“Simply put, the exposure isn’t at a high enough risk to have caused any health concerns, but it’s still something we’ve got to pay attention to,” Martiquet said, adding that he recommends a full two-minute flush before consuming the water.
“The concern would be chronic exposure, and we’re not dealing with any incidents of chronic exposure, nor have their been physicians— and I’ve been at it for 25 years — that have called me concerned with any lead toxicity (or) lead poisoning.”
But according to some Pemberton residents, the aggressive nature of Pemberton's water has been an issue for some time.
"It's been a nightmare," said David MacKenzie, owner of the Pemberton Valley Lodge
"When I first opened the lodge in 2004, I had no idea about the aggressiveness of the water, and I learned that the hard way because two years into the operation I was replacing a hot water tank."
McKenzie said plumbing and mechanical repairs at the lodge have been extensive over the years.
"(It's) well over the $100,000 range, and for a small business like mine, that's pretty excessive for a new building," he said.
"I've looked at several water treatment solutions over the years and we haven't been able to nail one down yet, because we were kind of always promised that something was happening with the village. They had acquired a new well, there was going to be some treatment going on or some way of addressing the pH levels.
"I pointed it out to the health department on several occasions and they kind of assured me that well, you know, the village is working on it."
The VOP says it is working to find a universal solution and will be installing a water conditioning system that will raise the pH of the water.
More information on Pemberton's water can be found at www.pemberton.ca/residents/health-and-environment/pemberton-water.
Questions can be directed to 604-894-6135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Check back with Pique for more as this story develops.