Murky water from Vancouver taps

Murky water is now flowing through taps in parts of Metro Vancouver after heavy rains Monday washed sediment into local reservoirs.

But the Lower Mainland's health officials say there's no reason to be alarmed.

Unlike last year when the same thing happened, they've made no move to issue a boil water advisory.

"While it may not be aesthetically pleasing, water coming out of taps remains acceptable to drink," said Vancouver Coastal chief medical health officer Dr. Patty Daly. "There is no boil water advisory in effect at this time."

The areas most affected are the North Shore, Vancouver and Burnaby, which are currently getting most of their drinking water from the Seymour reservoir.

That's where tests are showing high turbidity – water cloudiness to due suspended silt.

As of Wednesday afternoon, Metro Vancouver recorded readings of 32 NTUs (nephelometric turbidity units) in the Seymour.

Water managers typically boost chlorine use to disinfect tap water when turbidity rises above one NTU and when it tops five an alert is usually issued explaining why the water is noticeably cloudier.

Metro Vancouver is minimizing use of the Seymour and drawing as much water as possible from less affected Coquitlam Lake, which normally supplies the eastern and southern parts of the region.

Tests showed water from the Coquitlam source at 2.3 NTUs Wednesday afternoon.

A third reservoir, the Capilano, is off line as it is most susceptible to siltation and there's less time to treat water with chlorine there before it reaches nearby homes.

Metro officials are optimistic clearer water is on the way even at the Seymour reservoir.

Turbidity levels at the back end of that reservoir have fallen sharply – from as much as 200 Monday to less than three on Wednesday afternoon.

Metro spokesman Bill Morrell said it means the cloudy water should disappear, although that could be a number of days away.

"The trend is in the right direction," he said. "We seem to have weathered this particular storm."

Increased water turbidity – cloudiness due to silt levels – is associated with a higher risk of gastrointestinal illness.

Health officials say people with compromised immune systems should always either boil their water at least one minute or use water similarly treated.

No cases of illness were ever linked to last year's bout of turbid water.

This is one of the last years turbid water should be a problem for Metro Vancouver.

The $600-million Seymour-Capilano Filtration Plant is more than half built and will filter and treat water from the two North Shore reservoirs to a high standard.

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