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Boil water advisories could be caused by improper installation

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Research from the school council at Crossroads in Devlin points to improper installation of a new water system as the root of countless boil order advisories there since last year.

Claiming they couldn’t get answers from the local public school board, the council set out to get answers about the water problems at the school and what they found left Murray Quinn, the board’s superintendent for plant and maintenance, with no answers.

Representatives from the school board and Northwestern Health Unit were on hand for a meeting there Monday night to assure the school council and about 20 parents that the board is doing everything it possibly can.

“The water’s been off more than it’s been on,” said school council chair Marie Saunders to open the discussion.

Quinn said initial problems resulted from the Ontario government “firming up” legislation stemming from the Walkerton tragedy and subsequent inquiry.

“What became very clear very quickly was we had a problem with our water systems,” he said.

Among the changes the legislation called for was the need for weekly or bi-weekly water tests, and that wells had to undergo five-year tests.

The board also consulted Northwest Engineering to investigate the wells.

It also ensured maintenance people took correspondence courses certified by the ministry while a certified lab in Thunder Bay tests all the water.

There was supposed to be a question-and-answer period after

all the presentations were finished, but many parents couldn’t wait.

During council vice-chair Ralph Hill’s summation on what they discovered, several parents—including Hill himself—became angry over the lack of information from the school board.

The parents’ group provided evidence of improper installation—something they discovered when Hill phoned the manufacturer.

“[The engineering firm] took a look at all our schools. The equipment was installed properly,” Quinn replied. “Northwestern Engineering assured me there’s nothing else we can do to be more compliant.”

But the parents on hand wondered if the engineering firm wasn’t to blame.

Northwest Engineering could not be reached for comment by press time last night.

Hill said the water softener was often shut off over the past seven months and suggested it was the reason higher levels of iron, calcium, and magnesium appeared in the water.

“Could anyone here shut the water softener in their home off even though the engineering firm said it didn’t [cause the] build-up?” he asked.

Further to the problem, Hill noted the new system, which included a chlorinator, UV filter, water softener, as well as new well caps, was supposed to be up and running in April. “Why isn’t the system working [properly]?” he wondered.

As well, Hill said he talked to the manufacturer, contractors, and plumbers and noted they all said the water system wouldn’t work with the pressure tank at the end of the line.

Quinn said he would look into the manufacturer’s specifications and get back to the school council.

A boil water order had been in place at Crossroads since school opened last Wednesday, although it was lifted earlier Monday.

In December, 2001, the Ontario government enacted new water regulations with strict requirements on schools, private schools, day care facilities, health care facilities, and other such facilities that have their own water supply systems.

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