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Steady flow of Chatham-Kent residents take advantage of free bottled water, to spare them boiling

A boil water advisory has been in place for Tilbury and Wheatley residents since Sept. 13.

Starting Thursday, the municipality started offering free bottled water to impacted residents.

At the Tilbury Arena pickup spot Friday, there was a steady stream of residents driving up and getting up to two cases of water per family.

And, a steady flow of foot traffic at the Wheatley Resource Centre where they just got a second shipment of water.

Residents like Helen Stewart of Wheatley, who was thrilled to be able to take home three large jugs of water.

“It will save us a little bit of boiling,” Stewart said Friday. “I boil a big pot (of water) and then I've got three or four containers that I fill with the clean water. So I probably only boil water once a day, which isn't terrible.”Boiling water at a home in Wheatley, Ont., on Friday, Sept. 29, 2023. (Michelle Maluske/CTV News Windsor)

The advisory was issued after a fire at the water treatment plant caused “extensive” damage; enough to reduce the pressure in the water system.

As a result, the treatment plant will be out of commission for a year, according to Eric Labadie Communications Manager for the Municipality of Chatham-Kent.

Labadie says the Chatham-Kent Public Utilities Commission is working “day and night” to find an alternate system “through interconnects with other water lines”.

If they can confirm “reliability” of the system then they can conduct testing.

If two samples, taken 24 hours apart can come back clean, Labadie says the boil water advisory can be lifted.

Labadie says they do not have an estimate for how much this entire incident will cost taxpayers and there is no current timeline for when the tap water will be deemed safe.

Until then, residents like Stewart must boil their water for at least one minute before using it for “domestic purposes” like drinking, preparing food, making baby formula, brushing teeth or making ice.

“We're all hoping (it will) only be a little while longer,” said Stewart how lives less than a kilometre from where a gas explosion rocked their small community two years ago. “They say things happens in threes, right? Gosh, what's next?”

A sentiment Susan Fulmer, director of the Wheatley Resource Centre hears every day.

“When we hear you know different reports and press releases about how long to repair the actual treatment plant itself and then the boil water and people are frustrated,” said Fulmer. “How much more? What else? How long? Why so long?

According to Labadie in just one day, 24 pallets of water were given out in Tilbury while eight pallets were handed out Thursday in Wheatley.

Until further notice and until the boil advisory is lifted, impacted residents can get free bottled water at the Tilbury and Wheatley arenas from noon until six o’clock every day.

Water is also available at the Wheatley Resource Centre during normal business hours.

The Municipality has also launched a dedicated website and phone line for the boil water advisory. Top Stories

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