Tom Kertes is leading the Community for Clean Water community-based organization to help bring clean water back to Prince Rupert. (Shannon Lough / The Northern View)

Tom Kertes is leading the Community for Clean Water community-based organization to help bring clean water back to Prince Rupert. (Shannon Lough / The Northern View)

Social media strains over Prince Rupert’s boil water notice

Resident forms Community for Clean Water, and Jennifer Rice responds to acting mayor’s comments

For the past five weeks, there’s been a war of words on social media over the boil water notice.

At the City of Prince Rupert council meeting on Jan. 14, councillor Reid Skelton-Morven addressed the online commentary as “keyboard warriors” and “Facebook trolls”.

Tom Kertes was at that council meeting to learn more about the water situation.

“I saw a group of people who were felt like they were under seige and they were frustrated,” he said.

Facebook is a terrible way for a community to solve problems, Kertes said, who is starting the grassroots organization — Community for Clean Water.

When the boil water notice was issued on Dec. 14, after microparasites giardia and cryptosporidium were found in the water, Kertes said there was little information coming from the city until he realized he had to be on Facebook to see posts from Mayor Lee Brain.

“That’s what made me think ‘we need to start a face-to-face organization’. And what I want to do is have people that want to solve the problem … how do we make sure everyone who needs water gets it,” he said. “This is like a community-wide problem. It’s not just city council’s problem.”

His vision for Community for Clean Water is to provide clean water for everyone, even during the boil water notice. Some people, for example, have asked why the city won’t take the District of Port Edward up on their offer to truck potable water in for residents.

City communications manager, Veronika Stewart, has provided an updated frequently asked questions page on the city website that includes the answer. The city has determined that “this option presents additional health concerns with respect to the use of unsterilized containers”.

Kertes said that Stewart has been “fantastic” in responding to questions and reaching out.

“But what I think is missing is community,” he said. Kertes left Facebook a while ago, and doesn’t see social media as a good way to engage community. Before he was a teacher, he was a community organizer in Vancouver and Baltimore.

He plans to use his skills to network with unions, churches, First Nations groups and other organizations to develop long-term commitments for clean water in the city.

Rather than feed into negative comments on Facebook, he wants to maintain a constructive and solutions-focused discussion through Community for Clean Water.

For more information on how to get involved with the new grassroots organization visit communityforcleanwater.ca

READ MORE: How neighbouring North Coast villages avoided the boil water notice

North Coast MLA Rice responds

Prince Rupert’s representative in the provincial legislature also had a response to council’s presentation on the ongoing issues with water.

NDP North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice responded to acting Mayor Wade Niesh’s comments, saying that asking citizens to redirect their anger from social media to their provincial and federal representatives was “misguided”.

READ MORE: City asks residents to write MLA, MP to help with water issues

Rice noted that the boil notice has been a legitimate hardship for Prince Rupert residents, especially the elderly, the sick, families with multiple children and those with small businesses in the food service industry.

“I’m well aware of the issues, I’m boiling my water along with my fellow residents,” Rice said in an interview a few days after the general council meeting. “I certainly raised the issue as an important issue with both the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing so they are well aware of the issue.”

Rice went on to say that no one at city hall, whether elected or un-elected, had reached out to her to do more on the water boil notice other than ensure that the province had received the city’s applications for infrastructure funding. She also noted that water infrastructure falls under the purview of municipalities.

“It’s their responsibility,” Rice said.

Rice added that there are many communities in Canada who have submitted applications for that funding, and who have been under water boil notices for considerable lengths of time.

“I wish I could, you know, give you a great announcement or news, but it will be some time before we know the results of those grant applications,” she said.

To report a typo, email: editor@thenorthernview.com.


Prince Rupert Northern View
Newsroom 
Send us an email.
Like the The Northern View on Facebook.
Follow us on Twitter.

City of Prince Rupert

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A picture of Bug before the attack by the dogs on Nov. 17, 2020. (Submitted photo)
Three dogs almost kill cat in Miller Road area near Duncan

Efforts to catch the canines unsuccessful so far

Beautiful morning with the sun peaking through, as viewed from Thetis Island. (Photo by Kelly Bannister)
November characterized by a record high, no snow and plenty of rain in Chemainus region

Temperature almost hits the 20 degree Celsius mark on Nov. 4

Group wants to start a pilot program for regenerative farms in North Cowichan. (File photo)
Group looks to North Cowichan for farmland

Land could also be used for affordable housing

The CVRD will reconsider its policies on fireworks after receiving complaints. (File photo)
Cowichan Valley Regional District considers options for fireworks after receiving complaints

Distict only allows fireworks on Halloween and New Year’s Eve, with a permit

Ben Maartman, left, and Murray McNab are running for regional director for Area H North Oyster-Diamond in a Cowichan Valley Regional District byelection later this month. (Photos submitted)
Preliminary Area H byelection results show Maartman up by seven votes, McNab to ask for recount

Results of the by-election to by finalized by noon on Tuesday, December 1

A B.C. Ambulance Service paramedic wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 moves a stretcher outside an ambulance at Royal Columbia Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, November 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. records deadliest weekend of COVID-19 pandemic with 46 deaths; more than 2,300 cases

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry provides COVID-19 update

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
B.C. researchers launch study to test kids, young adults for COVID-19 antibodies

Kids and youth can often be asymptomatic carriers of the novel coronavirus

A sign is seen this past summer outside the Yunesit’in Government office west of Williams Lake reminding visitors and members to stay safe amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Rebecca Dyok photo)
B.C. First Nation leaders await privacy commissioner decision on COVID-19 information

Release of life-saving data cannot wait, says coalition of First Nations

MLA Jennifer Whiteside is B.C.’s new minister of education. She is speaking out against Chilliwack school trustee Barry Neufeld and asking him to resign. (Black Press)
New education minister calls on Chilliwack trustee to resign

Whiteside echoes former minister’s promise to look at options to remove Barry Neufeld

Peter Beckett. ~ File photo
Supreme Court of Canada to decide if it will hear appeal in 2010 wife murder trial

Peter Beckett has stood trial twice for murder in connection with the death of his wife, Laura Letts-Beckett

Tabor Home in Abbotsford. (Ben Lypka/Abbotsford News)
B.C.’s largest COVID-19 care-home outbreak records 19 deaths, 147 cases

Tabor Home in Abbotsford has been battling outbreak since Nov. 4

Most Read