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Safe for now

Hawkins pushes for water testing

Jorge Barrera
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (May 11/01) - Yellowknife's drinking water is safe, but the city's public works director wants to raise standards a little more by introducing a new series of testing for organisms like Cryptosporidium.

Gary Craig, public works director for the city, says the city should start testing drinking water for viruses, protozoa and bacteria this fall.

The city already employs daily testing for fluoride and chlorine levels, weekly testing for bacteria and yearly testing for a wide range of metals.

The city also tests for trihalomethane, a dangerous organic chlorine compound, twice a year.

According to Brad Colpitts, senior environmental officer with the Stanton Regional Health Board, the water's bacteriological quality is "excellent" and it has no minerals.

"There's no evidence of any chemical hazards," said Colpitts.

The city hasn't tested for cryptosporidium since the early 1990s -- the parasite currently in the national spotlight as a result of a water crisis in North Battleford, Sask.

The parasite is potentially dangerous if contracted by someone with a weak immune system but causes little more than diarrhea in adults with healthy immune systems.

The proposed tests include the parasite.

There's only one recorded case of a human contracting cryptosporidium in the Northwest Territories in the last 10 years.

Hawkins wants the city to test for Cryptosporidium despite the low probability of it contaminating the city's water.

City councillor Robert Hawkins wants Yellowknife's water to set national standard for safety.

"Putting a price tag on someone's life is not reasonable," he said.

"We should go above and beyond what's required," said Hawkins. Craig said the new tests would cost $2,500 each or $34,000 over three years. Craig aims to do one test this fall and try to include future tests into the department's capital plan.

Craig also said the city is considering a new water treatment facility in the near future. The current facility was built in 1947.