Residents of East Coulee have been reminded to avoid using water from shallow wells for drinking or cooking purposes, including the preparation of infant formula.
This comes after Alberta Health Services (AHS) became aware of possible contamination to the shallow ground water wells typically less than 50 feet.
This month, AHS sent a letter from Dr. Digby Horne, Medical Health Officer from Central Zone Alberta Health Services to homes in the area reminding them of possible contamination.
In 2014, some residents requested that soil and ground water be tested before the installation of a water fill station.
"(The residents) challenged and said if you are going to put this in, you are going to contaminate our water," Drumheller Mayor Terry Yemen said.
"At that time the Town did their due diligence and did this, so we have a base line to know where it was at, that is the findings there. It was at the request of the people of East Coulee that the study was done," he explained.
According to the letter to residents, "based on limited testing, potential concerns were identified with the safety of drinking untreated water from shallow ground water wells.”
"When we saw the results of the study we were obliged by law to give it to the health authority," Yemen told The Mail.
"There is a water line to East Coulee and if the residents of East Coulee want to go together and support a local improvement tax they can have water, or they can continue to use the water. They have been duly warned and it is up to them," he said.
These concerns stem from the possibility that levels of nitrates can increase over time, and nitrates can affect the ability of blood in infants to carry oxygen, leading to health problems.
There is also the possibility of elevated levels of benzo(a)pyrene. This is a suspected carcinogen that comes from the incomplete burning of fossil fuels and wood, coke oven emissions and creosote treated wood.
There is also the possibility of bacteria and parasite contamination coming from the Red Deer River.
The letter states the water may cause mild skin irritation when used for bathing and could cause staining when used for laundry. Using ground water for washing dishes and watering gardens is not thought to pose a health risk.
"The health authority explained to the town their findings with the water. It is not a ban on the use of the water, it is telling (the residents) it shouldn't be used for specific things... that information is the health authorities information and it is their responsibility to notify the people," Yemen said.
East Coulee resident Rod Rosine does not believe the threat is real.
In a letter to the editor, he states that “If Alberta Health recognized a serious threat, they surely would have acted accordingly, instead of using cautionary wording stating it’s possible there MAY be some adverse reactions from bathing or drinking our water.”
In the Medical Officer of Health’s letter, he states that should residents wish to continue to use ground water for these activities, to “please contact your local Public Health Inspector regarding baseline and ongoing chemical and bacteriologic testing and treatment requirements.”
The local Public Health Inspector can be reached at 403-823-3341.