Day four of boil water advisory in Montreal suburb, lifted in St-Bruno-de-Montarville

MONTREAL — A boil water advisory affecting more than 40,000 residents of a Montreal suburb is now in its fourth day, despite being lifted in two neighbouring communities.

The boil water advisory in St-Bruno-de-Montarville, Que. was lifted on Monday afternoon, but residents of the neighbouring community of Boucherville, Que., on Montreal's south shore, are still being asked to boil water for at least one minute before drinking it.

The advisory has been in place since Friday when E. coli bacteria was found in the water supply.

Boucherville spokeswoman Julie Lavigne said test results received on Sunday showed no contamination of the city's drinking water, but noted provincial regulations require two rounds of testing before a boil water advisory is lifted.

"We're waiting for the second series of samples, which were taken yesterday," she said in an interview Monday, adding that it takes around 24 hours to get the test results.

If all the samples taken Sunday are negative for E. coli, the advisory will be lifted immediately, but if contamination is found, it will be extended for at least another 48 hours.

Lavigne said all three communities get their drinking water from a plant in Longueuil, Que., but are responsible for testing in their own networks.

She said her city wasn't able to test its water or send samples to a lab as quickly as Longueuil, which lifted its boil water advisory on Sunday evening.

She said Longueuil, as the manager of the water treatment plant, knew about the issue first and was able to take its samples late in the day on Friday, which wasn't possible for Boucherville in part because of the long weekend.

"We weren't able to have staff in the laboratory who could do it all on Friday, so it had to be on Saturday morning," she said.

Some residents have said they weren't informed of the advisory.

Matthew Banks, a father of three in Saint-Bruno de Montarville, learned of the measure on Sunday after it had been in place for two days.

“I don’t even know where to go from here,” he said in an interview on Monday. “We’ve been drinking the water, using it to wash dishes and stuff, and everyone seems to be fine.”

But, he added, he’s bothered that he learned about the boil water advisory via a local Facebook group.

“We have electric signs,” he said, “We’re not in the 19th century. With today’s technology, there’s no reason why we can’t advise the community of this.”

He noted Meta, Facebook’s parent company, is blocking Canadians from viewing links to news after the Online News Act required tech giants to pay for the news content shared on their platforms.

“That’s where a lot of people get their news from,” Banks said. “But there’s no reason why (the city) can’t do a massive telephone call, or an advisory on electronic signs, or something.”

In an email, Saint-Bruno de Montarville said it's keeping people updated through its official Facebook page.

Lavigne said Boucherville is sending messages directly to around 20,000 residents — roughly half the city's population — who have signed up to receive texts, calls or emails from the city.

It's also communicating through its website and Facebook page, she said, adding people are being encouraged to share information with those around them.

The city of Longueuil said Sunday it had experienced an issue with its emergency alert system the day the advisory took effect and was investigating the cause.

In an emailed statement, Longueuil said it's still investigating the source of the contamination, adding that only a single sample tested positive for E. coli.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 4, 2023.

Jacob Serebrin and Marlo Glass, The Canadian Press