Vancouver storm pollutes water; 2 million waterless

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Friday, November 17, 2006

Severe rainfall on the 16th of November has led to a water quality warning affecting more than two million people living in the Greater Vancouver metropolitan region. Wednesday's storm triggered severe landslides in the region's three water reservoirs, creating sediment levels up to ninety times higher than permitted under federal health standards. The Vancouver Coastal Health Authority issued a warning to residents advising them to boil all water intended for personal consumption. The advisory is mandatory for hospitals, daycares, and other public facilities, and is in effect until further notice.

The region's Chief Medical Health Officer has advised that tap water not be used for anything. "We know that with turbidity levels this high there is an increased risk of gastrointestinal illness. So people need to be aware of that, although it's their choice," warned Dr. Patricia Daly. "If I'm asked, I'm telling the public: Don't drink the water from the tap at this time. Drink bottled water or boil your water for a full minute."

Commercial operations were affected as well. Food stores were ordered to turn off produce sprayers used to cool vegetables, and restaurants had to stop serving many food products. Many of Vancouver's hundreds of coffee shops were quiet.

The Greater Vancouver area has received a total of 236.8mm of rain this month. The rainfall record of 350.8mm was set in 1983, according to measurements taken at Vancouver International Airport. BC Hydro, the province's primary electrical provider, was busy repairing power and telephone lines blown down in the heavy winds. Over 220,000 customers were left without electricity in the aftermath of the storm, with more rain expected on Sunday.

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