BY CHARLENE TEBBUTT, FOR THE STARPHOENIX
PRINCE ALBERT — Health officials in Prince Albert plan to meet with area day-care providers after a toddler became sick with the same parasites currently plaguing the city’s drinking water supply.
The toddler is the first to test positive for giardia since the parasites were found in the city’s drinking water earlier this month. The city has been under an emergency boil-water order since Feb. 7 after tests confirmed low levels of both giardia and cryptosporidium in the water.
The city had previously issued a boil-water advisory after a broken valve at the Prince Albert water treatment plant caused untreated river water to seep into the main waterline.
Dr. James Irvine, acting medical-health officer for the Prince Albert Parkland Health Region, said Friday that health officials cannot directly link the toddler’s illness to the city’s contaminated water. Still, health officials have talked with a day care the child attended to ensure proper sanitation procedures are being followed and plan to contact other day cares in the city as well.
Giardia is a common parasite in water, Irvine added, and can be found in lakes and rivers, or spread between individuals. It is also possible that some people who have giardia never feel any symptoms, he said.
“It is almost impossible to directly relate it to the water supply,” Irvine said Friday. “There are a variety of different risk factors … so, periodically finding a few cases, it’s not something that we would be concerned with the water supply.”
More than 140 tests have been completed since the boil-water order was issued. There were 120 positive tests for giardia across the province in 2011, Irvine said.
“If we’re doing lots of tests, we’re bound to find some giardia in there,” he said of the recent positive result. “So it’s not unexpected.”
Meanwhile, the city is continuing with a plan to clean local reservoirs and flush water lines. Divers are expected to begin cleaning the city’s two smaller reservoirs on Monday.
Results of testing done earlier this week show no parasites in the water, the city said.
The boil-water order has been causing headaches for local business owners who have been buying bottled water to insure their customers’ safety.
Public health officials visited local businesses to ensure their systems complied with health regulations soon after the order was issued.
David Culbert, the owner and manager at Chicken Chef in Prince Albert said his isn’t the only business that has had to stop providing fountain drinks due to contaminated water. Culbert has been providing canned drinks and bottled water to customers but said the additional stock is costing more.
Culbert says he has already spent several hundred dollars on bottled drinks while canisters of fountain pop sit unused.
“We can’t operate normally … it’s just a headache from a business standpoint,” he said.
“It’s not cost effective by any means.”
Dental offices in the city have also been affected by the boil-water order. Dr. Roger Spink with the East Side Dental Centre, said the office was closed for a day and a half following the boil-water order while dental units were switched to a bottled-water system. Spink estimates the work cost between $1,000 and $2,000.
The dental office has been using several five-gallon bottles of water per week, he said.
“It was just going to be much more economical to change over to bottled water than to close,” Spink added.
The Prince Albert Parkland Health Region has spent more than $10,000 on bottled water since the order was issued, said communications officer Doug Dahl. Health officials say children, seniors or those with compromised immune systems are most at risk of getting sick from contaminated water.
The region has purchased about 400 five-gallon jugs of water, 20 dispensers and more than 11,400 individual bottles of water for patients at the Victoria Hospital and other local health facilities, he said.
The region is also installing a $5,000 multi-barrier filtration system.
The new system will allow the region to use city water for cooking and drinks, Dahl added.
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