News Feature | September 7, 2015

DBPs Lead To Water 'State Of Emergency' In Canada

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,

Chemical contamination led to a state of emergency in Canada late last month.

“A northwestern Ontario First Nation declared a state of emergency, saying its drinking water contains potentially dangerous chemicals,” The National Post reported. “The Grassy Narrows First Nation says it has been under a boil-water advisory for more than a year, but even boiling won’t remove the chemicals.”

Grassy Narrows explained the decision to declare a state of emergency. On August 27, the following statement was released:

Today the Grassy Narrows First Nation is declaring a state of emergency over unsafe drinking water conditions in the community. The community is delivering bottled water door to door to ensure that their families, many of which have already been impacted by mercury poisoning, have safe drinking water. Drinking water tests done by the Ontario Ministry of the Environment found turbidity at a level 120 times the safety limit. Chemicals that are possible human carcinogens were also present at elevated levels.

Testing revealed disinfection byproducts including tricholormethanes, haloacetic acids, and hexaclorcyclopentadiene, the news report said. In addition, “mercury and DBPs (plasticizers also used in adhesives) are present in the water,” Vice News reported.

Eva Pip, a water expert and professor at the University of Winnipeg, said that the chemicals found at northern Ontario First Nation are "disturbing."

"The effects of these are actually quite disturbing because in some instances these chemicals can be hormone disrupters, they can damage the liver and kidneys, they can have neurological effects and also they can have reproductive effects, for example, effects on the fetus or fertility issues," she said, per CBC News.

“The community's water plant is about a decade old and has never functioned properly, but the First Nation can't afford to fix it, and there is no funding available from the federal government,” CBC News reported, citing Grassy Narrows First Nation Chief Randy Fobister.

For more stories about informing the public of water emergencies, visit Water Online’s Consumer Outreach Solutions Center.