The local health unit claims it asked the City of Barrie to issue a boil water advisory first thing Friday morning, while notice wasn’t sent out until after lunch. The City says it waited for the Health Unit to sign off on it.
Dr. Charles Gardner, The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit’s Medical Officer of Health, tells Barrie 360 the Health Unit was advised of the broken water main as of 8:15 Friday morning, and gave a verbal order to the municipality to issue a boil water advisory five minutes later. Notice from the City of Barrie did not come out until 1:22pm in the form of an email to media. A tweet from the city was sent out at 1:27.
In response, City of Barrie CAO Michael Prowse emailed Barrie 360 to say “The City and the Health Unit were in communication all day, starting at 8:26am. There was information coming in all morning, and Health Unit and City staff worked together on the Boil Water advisory and the information for the public as the testing results were coming in. There was signoff from the Health Unit on the advisory at 12:45pm and the City issued the advisory at 1:21pm. As with all incidents, we will review and look for ways to improve our protocols with a focus on resident health and safety in collaboration with the health unit.”
Numerous comments left on Barrie 360’s Facebook post, as well as that of the City of Barrie, expressed anger over the delay in issuing a boil water advisory.
Gardner says the Health Unit began reaching out to affected schools and businesses directly to inform them of the boil water advisory, while some restaurants were told they could not operate while the advisory was in effect.
It wasn’t until after the Health Unit got in touch with the City again, and provided verbiage for a media release that the notice was issued to the general public, according to Dr. Gardner, “We provided supports to the municipality, for them to carry out their duty under the order we gave them, to put out a communication or press release to the public, to put on social media. We gave them supports in the way of the content of the message.”
Dr. Gardner says says they will review the situation and work on communication in the future, adding the water supply still had safeguards despite the delayed advisory. “We, I think, need to look at how we ensure that happens in a timely way, certainly for future incidences.” says Dr. Gardener, “When we look at details of the situation, we are reassured that despite the likelihood that there was mud contaminants drawn into the line, a main concern, that the chlorine levels were maintained throughout. And that would help to protect people, and protect the water supply.”
Mayor Jeff Lehman adds that the city had a back up plan in place, “in most municipal water systems, it would not have been possible to divert water to the affected area – basically in most cities and towns a break like this would have meant an extended period without water.” says Lehman. “Barrie’s system has some redundancy built into it now in many areas of the city, which allowed us to continue to provide water despite the break.”
Meanwhile, Dr. Gardner says the Health Unit will continue to will be monitoring visits to area emergency departments over the next week or so, watching for anyone displaying symptoms associated with drinking water of poor quality., adding there have been no patients thus far.