MONTREAL – A huge boil-water advisory, affecting 1.3 million people in Montreal, will be maintained at least until late this evening while frustrated locals find some relief in sarcastic humour about their city.
City officials say the advisory will be in effect until after 9:30 p.m., to allow for the completion of tests, and an update will be issued later.
They say results won’t be known beforehand because of a mandatory 24-hour incubation period until water samples can be tested.
It’s still not clear what caused the day-old advisory, but it has locals irate.
A number are lamenting the quality of the governance in their scandal-plagued city. One La Presse newspaper column goes on at length, bitterly decrying the state of affairs in the city, before concluding with a joke: at least the mayor doesn’t smoke crack.
The advisory, following repeated subway disruptions and reports of corruption in the city, resulted in a flurry of comments on Twitter. Many struck a humorous note: “Even the water is corrupt in Montreal,” tweeted a number of people, including Marcel Carrier.
There were also jokes that drew parallels between brown envelopes, like the kind being described at the Charbonneau inquiry, and the brown water.
The incident started at the Atwater filtration station, the second-largest in Canada. It was shut down around 6:30 a.m. Wednesday after levels dropped, causing sediments to enter the city supply.
The boil advisory was a preventive measure, officials said. They said Montrealers were able to drink the water after it had been boiled for a minute.
“We have no indication that any citizens were affected by drinking the water that circulated,” said Christian Dubois, the municipal public-safety director.
“But we’re not taking any risks.”
The advisory resulted in a surge in demand for bottled water. Several Montreal grocery stores said they were running out.
One major grocery chain said the demand for bottled water underwent an astronomical increase — by about 25 to 50 times — since the advisory came into effect.
The company told The Canadian Press that it had sent 40 trucks to Montreal, carrying a total of one million water bottles, to deal with the demand.
Montreal isn’t distributing bottled water for the moment because there is no need, according to city officials.
“There isn’t a water shortage,” said city spokesperon Valerie De Gagne.
“Water-filtration plants are working at full capacity.”
The city is still preparing for the worst, preparing a “gameplan” in case the advisory winds up being extended, she said.
The impact was being felt at coffee shops, which had to turn away customers. It also prompted a more urgent call to action among advocates for the homeless.
One youth shelter, Dans la rue, recognized the potential impact on the poor.
“As soon as (the shelter’s team) learned about it, they went to get large water bottles,” said group spokeswoman Dorothy Massimo.
The shelter, which serves about 150 meals per day, uses water coolers.
Massimo said the shelter had enough water to last another day.