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Boil Water Advisories


Frequently Asked Questions About Boil Water Advisories

The City understands the public frustration when Boil Water Advisories are issued, especially when they are prolonged due to complicated repairs or unfortunate timing on weekends or holidays.

However, for your safety, it is very important that these advisories be followed.  Please be assured that the Water and Wastewater Division strives to work as quickly as possible to have your water fully restored to you as soon as possible.

Why is a Boil Water Advisory (BWA) issued?

A BWA is issued most often after any routine and/or emergency repairs in the water distribution system, such as a water main break, where the water pressure cannot be maintained while work is being done.  This is a precautionary measure once the water is flowing again, as there could be contamination.

A BWA may also be issued if routine sampling reveals evidence of unacceptable levels of disease-causing microorganisms.

How will I know if I need to boil my water?

Notices are hand delivered to all residences affected by a BWA by our Water and Wastewater Division. Most often the BWA involves a small number of residences in a particular area and hand delivering notices is most effective.

When the entire City or a large section of the City is affected, the City will send out an automated message from Kenora Alerts, our mass notification system. If you haven’t already, be sure to sign up for this free service at Kenora Alerts and you will receive direct messaging to your phone or email.

How will I know when it is okay to drink the water again?

If you received a hand delivered notice to start boiling your water, then you will also receive a hand delivered notice when the advisory has been rescinded.

If an automated message was sent out to advise of the BWA, an automated follow up message will be sent out to advise of the rescind.

When can a BWA be lifted or rescinded?

Two requirements must be met before a BWA can be lifted or rescinded.
1) The condition(s) which led to the boil water advisory must be corrected, for example the watermain break is completely repaired;
2) Two consecutive sets of water samples, collected 24 hours or more apart, meet the bacteriological and disinfection standards.

For example, if the condition causing the BWA to be issued is resolved and the first set of samples is taken on day 1 at 7:00 p.m. then the second sample can be taken at or after 7:01 p.m. on day 2 (24 hours or more apart).  If both samples test negative for bacteriological contaminants (Total Coliform (TC) and E Coli), then the BWA can be rescinded.

What is the protocol for sampling?

Water samples must be received by the testing lab within 48 hours. Due to Provincial regulations, our samples must be tested by any Ontario Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks (MECP) accredited lab.

It is therefore very important to understand – if a sample is collected at 10:00 a.m. on day 1 in Kenora, that water sample must reach the lab at or before 9:59 a.m. on day 3. If they do not, the samples cannot be tested and are of no value. This would require a new set of samples (two samples 24 hours apart) to be taken and further delay in rescinding the BWA.

Who tests the samples to make sure there is no bacteria in the water?

In Ontario, only labs accredited by the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks (MECP) can test and confirm the bacteriological standard of the samples. The closest Ontario accredited lab to Kenora is ALS Environmental Thunder Bay – approximately 500 kilometers from Kenora. As a municipality in Ontario, we are not allowed to use Winnipeg water and wastewater laboratory facilities for this service.

How are the samples sent to the accredited lab?

Currently, there are only two courier options to carry samples from Kenora to ALS Environmental Thunder Bay. Both courier services are only available during week days (Monday through Friday) from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

If we take into account the lab’s receiving procedure, we can only reliably ship samples to the lab Monday through Thursday.

There are no weekend or after-hours services available. As such, if a break occurs on the weekend, the first water sample would not be taken until Monday Morning.

Why does it take so long to get the sample results back?

When samples are sent to Thunder Bay, the timing is determined by the couriers’ schedules, whether on time or not, and their in-house protocols.  This may cause the sample “holding time” of 48 hours to be broken, forcing the collection of another set of samples, resending those samples, and starting the cycle over again.

What happens when the samples arrive at the lab?

Once samples arrive within the allowable holding time, ALS Laboratory needs another 24 hours to confirm whether the samples of the City’s water are free from bacteria or not, before sending a “Certificate of Analysis Report”. The Certificate of Analysis Report is sent to both MECP and Kenora Water Treatment Plant.  Only after this document is received can the BWA be rescinded.

How long does it take for a BWA to be lifted or rescinded?

City crews work as quickly as possible to complete repairs or fix the situation to be able to send in water samples for testing. The length of the BWA depends on when the samples can be delivered and results received back. Considering all the steps required as outlined above, and regardless of whichever courier is used to send in the water samples, the length of a BWA may vary as follows:

  • 4 -5 days, if the BWA is issued on Monday, Tuesday, or the weekend, and if all goes well;
  • 7-10 days if the BWA is issued on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, or a holiday, and any one step in the chain (as described above) is disturbed or broken; and
  • During winter, delays resulting from extreme temperatures, highway conditions or snow storms may occur.

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