Boil-water advisory lifted in Halifax and surrounding areas

HALIFAX — A boil-water advisory that had affected more than 200,000 people living and working in Halifax and the surrounding area was lifted Wednesday morning, 40 hours after it came into effect.

Halifax Water issued the advisory Monday evening after an electrical problem at its Pockwock Lake water treatment facility allowed some unchlorinated water to enter the system.

Jeff Myrick, communications manager for the utility, said the boil order was lifted after tests confirmed the unchlorinated water had adequately mixed with chlorinated water in the facility's system. He said chlorination is the last step of the water treatment processes before it is ready for use.

Myrick said the partially treated water did not present a serious health risk, echoing a statement on Tuesday by regional medical health officer Dr. Monika Dutt.

"There wasn't really a high risk of viruses or bacteria in the water," Myrick said in an interview. "It was more precautionary."

He said the utility still does not know what caused the electrical problem that led to the boil order. It is investigating why backup generators did not kick in, but Myrick could not say how long the investigation will take.

"We'll be looking at everything, because this was never supposed to happen. It shouldn't have happened, and we want to make sure it never happens again," he said.

The utility issued a statement Wednesday morning advising residential and commercial customers that all appliances that store water should be flushed for ten minutes. As well, Halifax Water said any ice cubes made during the advisory period should be thrown out.

Water is now safe for all customers served by the Pockwock Lake facility, the utility confirmed.

On Tuesday, grocery stores in the Halifax area reported running out of bottled water and hospitals said they were washing patients with waterless bath products. Some daycares and restaurants were forced to close, and restaurants that remained open used water jugs and boiled water to serve customers safely.

Affected communities included the Halifax peninsula, Beaver Bank, Middle and Lower Sackville, Hammonds Plains, Bedford, Timberlea, Spryfield, and Herring Cove.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 3, 2024.

Cassidy McMackon, The Canadian Press