Infants and young children in Williams Lake should not be given city water to drink due the amount of manganese found in the water supply.
The City issued a water quality advisory Monday, July 29 recommending people use another source of water, such as bottled water, for preparing baby formula for infants and food or drinks for young children.
“The City of Williams Lake is issuing a Water Quality Advisory about the levels of manganese in its drinking water supply. While the quality of the City’s drinking water has not changed, the Canadian Guideline for drinking water has,” states a news release. Manganese (Mn) is an element found in air, food, soil and drinking water.
Gary Muraca, the city’s director of municipal services, said Williams Lake is no different than several other communities that draw from ground water sources such as Cache Creek, Quesnel and Osoyoos.
“We are all in the same boat right now, we knew this was coming down the pipes, ” Muraca told the Tribune Monday. “I’m not saying those communities will all have the same levels as us, but they are going to have to find ways to deal with manganese.”
Muraca said the City issued Monday’s water advisory in collaboration with Interior Health about the changes made by Health Canada regarding the changes to maximum acceptable concentration of manganese.
“It’s the same water residents have been getting for a long time, it’s just now become something that has been linked to possible development issues in bottle fed babies or young children,” Muraca said. “The advisory is aimed, for the most part, at that use.”
Full water reports are available on the City’s website at http://www.williamslake.ca/376/Environmental-Reports.
According to Healthlink BC, drinking water with high levels of manganese may harm brain development in infants and young children. According to Health Canada, manganese is most easily absorbed in the body through drinking water.
The government website states manganese in drinking water wasn’t a health concern before, as it was only considered a nuisance causing stains on laundry and fixtures, however, new scientific studies show health effects from exposure to high levels of manganese in drinking water. This new information was used to revise the guideline for manganese in drinking water.
“In May 2019, Health Canada established a new maximum acceptable concentration (MAC) for manganese in drinking water of 0.12 mg/L. The City of Williams Lake draws its water from five deep wells. Test results show that the City’s ground water wells have between 0.13 to 0.25 mg/L of manganese; the level depends on which wells are pumping and for how long.”
Williams Lake is trying to get ahead and created a water management strategy in March of this year, Muraca said.
“Now we have to start thinking about how we are going to pay for water treatment. Williams Lake cannot afford to pay for a water treatment plant on its own,” he noted, adding the estimated cost is $15 million.
“We will be relying on federal and provincial grants and we are hoping that because we are conserving our water and we are proposing to get water metering that that will put us ahead of the curve when grant applications are being considered.”
The City expects to meet the new guidelines in the near future, states the news release, however, Muraca said it will likely be five years before the City has a water treatment plant, adding 100 Mile House and 108 Mile House have new water treatment plants that use a biological approach to reduce manganese levels.
If Williams Lake reduces its water consumption due to metering, the City would require a smaller treatment plant which would reduce the price, he added.