A cohesive community effort is needed to convince the city of White Rock to reverse its decision to chloraminate the water supply, according to speakers at a rally at city hall Monday.
More than 170 people turned up to hear speakers discuss the potential environmental and health dangers of treating the city’s water supply with chloramine – a mixture of chlorine and ammonia – a decision that was announced by city staff in December.
“This is something that affects every person in White Rock,” Scott Keddy, who said he has a background in engineering consulting, told the crowd. “It affects every animal in White Rock.”
Keddy criticized the city for its lack of public consultation leading up to the decision, saying staff and council had been “disingenuous” with those speaking out against the treatment option.
“I want to know that there is no other option that will meet the treatment protocols,” Keddy said. “We deserve these answers before it’s implemented. They owe us that much.”
Andrew Schultz, a former member of the city’s environmental advisory committee, encouraged the crowd to sign a petition being circulated – which garnered 175 names by early Monday afternoon, according to rally organizers – and reach out to council, staff, other local politicians and Fraser Health with their concerns.
Schultz pointed out that although Health Canada and Fraser Health have approved the use of chloramine, the health authorities have not conducted any of their own studies into the longterm health effects of the disinfectant.
“They’re fine with whatever happens to us, and we’re obviously here because we’re not,” Schultz said.
In addition to health concerns – Keddy pointed out that “the dangers of chloramination are not when you drink it, it’s when it volatiles in your shower and you inhale it” – environmental risks were also addressed at the rally.
David Riley, a director with the Little Campbell Watershed Society, pointed to a Greater Vancouver Regional District pilot project several years ago in which the water supply of 70,000 residents in South Surrey was treated with chloramine. Two water-main breaks near Fergus Creek during that time resulted in the death of thousands of juvenile salmon.
Riley called on the city to undertake a full environmental assessment of the risks associated with chloramine use.
“That’s on top of the fact that they need to talk to the community about the health of the water,” Riley added.
When the city’s decision was announced Dec. 14 staff said the chloramine treatment could start as early as January, however, last week city manager Dan Bottrill told Peace Arch News there is no fixed start date in place.