Resident considers moving from as 'do not consume' order at Charlie Lake trailer park continues

Piping near the water treatment facility at the Shady Acres trailer park in Charlie Lake on May 10.

A Charlie Lake trailer park remains under a do not consume order while the bacterial contamination levels are decreasing, but manganese are still cause for concern.

The order has been in place for the tap water at Shady Acres trailer park for the last week. Residents have been drinking, cooking and brushing their teeth with bottled water for the past eight days.

Northern Health identifying the bacterial contamination as e-coli and along with fecal coliform.

"We brush our teeth with it, we wash our hands with the jugs of water," said Cora Morris on a morning walk with her youngest children near the water treatment facility for Shady Acres.

According to Northern Health, an investigation determining improper maintenance of the treatment system at the sample sites may have caused the contamination.

However, there are promising tests showing e-coli and coliform are returning to acceptable levels. While follow up testing continues to confirm negative results, water in the trailer park should not be consumed.

Laken Mackay moved to the park around the time when her two year old daughter was born. "We don't drink it. I never made her bottles with it. We can't," she said.

However, Northern Health says manganese levels could mean a longer term water advisory due to its affects on vulnerable populations. "It's mainly infant or fetus who is at a neurological development or stage. For them long term exposure to a high level of manganese pose a risk,” said Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Jong Kim.

Chemical results show manganese levels of 0.196 parts per million (ppm) at Shady Acres while Health Canada says the maximum should be 0.12ppm.

“For the rest of the population, manganese is kind of an aesthetic issue rather than a health risk," said Dr. Kim.

However, there has been an aesthetic issue for Mackay who says she lost around nine inches of hair. Adding her neighbour faced the same issue prompting them to question the cause.

“We had every test in the book done and nothing. Three hair dressers suggested that it was probably the water. So we had to take it into our own hands,” Mackay said.

But Northern Health says ongoing testing shows the water is safe for bathing.

“We get the regular reporting and also if there is a complaint we do the kind of extra inspections. There are some risks that are more acute like the bacterial contamination that can pose more kind of acute kind of risk. Then we respond more quickly," said Dr. Kim.

Northern Health says filtration or treatment by the water system provider could reduce manganese. But residents say they've seen little action over water concerns by Sterling Management Services.

“We had our on water tests done and they said you shouldn't even be showering in it” said Mackay adding “That was kind of like a slap in the face. We can't even shower at our own house."

While Morris says there is lacking communication. “You call them to get a hold of them and they won't answer your calls or anything like that or they'll say someone is calling you back and never do. Which is a constant thing with them" she said.

While some are staying put in the trailer park, others are have had enough.

“It’s peaceful. It's quiet. You can hear the birds and watch the stars. It's great for your children just not water wise," said Morris who grew up in the park and returned to raise her family.

Meanwhile Mackay is ready to leave. "There's just something horrible in the water. We are planning to move. We don't want to deal with it anymore. It's too much," she said.

As of Friday, Northern Health shocking the water with chlorine to fix the bacterial issues. Still, two consecutive negative tests are required 24 hours apart before that issue is considered resolved and the water safe to drink.

To fix the manganese issue, Northern Health recommending Sterling fix their water treatment system or at least provide an alternate and reliable source of water for residents.

We reached out to Matthew Karmel the CEO of Sterling multiple times over the past week. He did not return our calls leaving residents with no answers as to what his company is planning long term as far as ensuring the safety of their drinking water.

In the meantime Shady Acres residents are supposed to be receiving water from Sterling. Although there's a 24 hour answering service, staff saying it's best for residents to call before they run out.