The bacterium E. coli has been detected in the water of the city centre of Rimouski.
July 23, 2020 23h12
Centre-ville de Rimouski: water contaminated with the bacterium E. coli
RIMOUSKI — the citizens of The city centre of Rimouski, as well as the tourists who are numerous in the restaurants and the businesses in this sector will have to avoid drinking tap water, unless it has been boiled in strong broth for at least a minute. The last test result of sampling in this area revealed the presence of the bacterium E. coli.
The area affected by the contamination account for approximately 6 000 citizens. Several private residences for seniors are located in the area, including the Haven of the Estuary, which has 400 residents.
It is a fairly uncommon situation, since the last time that the capital of the Bas-Saint-Laurent has been struggling with the same type of fecal coliform bacteria dates back to 2002. “We do an average of 13 tests per week across the network”, ensures the general director of the City of Rimouski. The test was carried out on Wednesday evening. “This is the alarm bell, lance Claude Périnet. We remember Walkerton. It is not supposed to be fecal coliforms in the water system!”
Although it is only a single bacterium, the employee part of the City stresses that the protocol is already planned and expected for this type of event has been applied. “The protocol is the same, whether it is 5,000 or one. It is very dangerous! This is something that can cause major damage. Therefore, we do not take the chance.”
The first step of this protocol was to notify the ministry of the Environment of Quebec, the regional directorate of public health and the hospital. Subsequently, the rapid process of information of the population was engaged. During the night of Wednesday to Thursday, 3 000 notices were distributed door-to-door in the target sector. The same opinion has also been aired in the media.
One of the first actions of the municipal employees, was Wednesday night, increasing the amount of disinfectant in the network, that is to say, of chlorine. “We respect the doses that are allowed during the treatment of drinking water, shall ensure Claude Périnet. But, as it has a water of excellent quality, which comes from the chutes Neigette, our dosage has always been at the minimum in the network.”
The cause is unknown for the time being. Several hypotheses may explain the presence of this bacterium. “We had planned to do eight samples that follow the path of the water that goes in this area here,” says the employee part of the City. It will help us to understand where we may have problems.”
The most plausible hypothesis, according to the ceo of the City, would be a contamination of the network. “It can be brought on by work that has been carried out and that there has been a contamination during the repair.” Another hypothesis could be an error in handling of the sampling, that is to say that the contamination may have been caused by the sampler. “We are working with people who are trained and are professionals. One who has done the sampling is a chemist by training. But, the error is always possible.” He believes, however, that the likelihood that contamination can come from the laboratory which carries out analyses of water is very low. “But, you never know”, he adds still. Finally, work in a private residence could also be the origin of the contamination.
One thing is certain, Claude Périnet believes that it is very unlikely that the problem comes from the source, since it is a groundwater. “We find very rarely this type of bacteria to depths as important”, he says.
Mr. Perinet indicates that the rules of the ministry of the Environment prior to the return to normal is very severe. “Not only it is not necessary to have presence of E. coli bacteria, but in addition, there must be a concentration completely void of total coliforms. In normal situation, the department shall normally be allowed up to 10 bacteria per 100 ml.”
People were able to be contaminated in the 24 hours prior to the water testing results? “It is possible”, let it go Mr. Perinet. But, it has been verified with the hospital and there was no case of gastro.” If people who have drunk this water have stomach aches, cramps, or nausea, they are asked to contact Info-Santé by dialing 8-1-1.