UPDATE: Bulk water available at Wellington District Community Centre.
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A boil water advisory remains in effect for residents connected to the Picton and Bloomfield water system.
Prince Edward County’s emergency control group held a live press conference Friday afternoon updating residents on the state of the water emergency on the Picton Bay. Residents are urged to keep boiling and conserving water. An outdoor burn ban is also in effect. A bulk water station has been set up in Wellington at the Wellington Community Centre at 111 Belleville Street. The dispensing unit has a 1″ connection and is coin operated. The current bulk rate is $3.07 per cubic metre (1,000 litres). The recommended container size one cubic metre (1,000 litres). Anyone wishing to use it is advised to bring a clean connecting hose at least 15 feet in length. The County is also working to install a balk water unit in Picton. Three Picton grocery stores – Sobey’s No Frills and Metro as having additional water on standby.
This situation began on Friday March 24 when an empty barge owned by Galcon Marine partially sank while docked at Picton Terminals on the Picton Harbour. There were no injuries and no loss of pollutants except for two five gallon buckets which were on the barge deck at the time. Approximately 30 litres of oil was released into the Picton Harbour. Recovery efforts by McKeil Marine continue into a seventh day as they work to re-float the barge.
The Hastings Prince Edward Health Unit issued the boil water advisory Thursday telling customers to bring water to a rapid boil for one minute before using it for domestic purposes.
Mayor Robert Quaiff said the Picton Water Treatment Plant remains shut down and the water supply continues to be replenished by water haulers from the Wellington and Rossmore water systems along with neighbouring municipalities.
“Still something in the water.”
Commissioner of Development, Engineering and Works Robert McAuley said test results on the Bay received late Thursday night taken the day before showed it’s ‘all of the chemical or chemistry one would expect with an oil spill/contamination.’
“It’s in limits that are below detection limits at the intake,” explained McAuley. “It didn’t get into our system. It’s at extremely low levels. you can’t measure it but you can smell it.”
He said the question will now be whether the sample they took Thursday is in the same or different condition.
“There is still something in the water, we know there is product trapped within the ice and the ice continues to melt so we are in a hopeful pattern,” he said.
“We are excited by the result (Thursday night). It probably means we can start (getting the plant re-started) sooner than we had hoped but we won’t know for sure until we get test results today along with input from Ministry of Environment and Environment Canada on what to expect in the upcoming days as the ice melts and this product moves through the body of water and then how do we treat it.”
McAuley said industry people they have reached, that have experience in this particular area, are providing technical assistance to staff.
“Using that, we are able to start formulating a plan, restart our filters and clean our intake and re-establish the distribution system,” he offered. “It is still going to be days away but there is a light at the end of the tunnel.”
Neighbouring municipalities come to County’s aid
The mayor said the County has been in close contact with the Ministry of Environment, which is working overtime to get water tested.
Mayor Quaiff commended the Tyendinaga Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte First Nation for contributing water free of charge to fill the Picton plant.
Quaiff said the County has received offers of assistance and manpower from every one of its neighbouring municipalities. Provincial Ministers Bill Morneau, Jeff Leal and Hon. Glenn Murray have offered their support. Hastings Prince Edward MPP Todd Smith and Bay of Quinte MP Neil Ellis are also in constant contact.
“The outpouring of support from the region has been incredible,” praised Quaiff.
When pressed about a plan to ensure ‘something like this doesn’t happen again’, Quaiff said he couldn’t stress enough how this was an “accident,” adding they are still working out the when, where and how it happened to avoid it in the future.
Future updates on the situation are expected later today with a press conference scheduled for Saturday at 12 p.m.
Updates can be found on the County’s website and Facebook and Twitter @Shire_Hall