HALIFAX — Many residents of the Halifax area may have been startled awake early Thursday morning by an emergency alert informing them of an unknown issue with a local water supply.
A drinking water alert from the province’s emergency alerting system appeared on many residents’ cellphones and televisions at 12:43 a.m. on June 10.
“There is an unknown issue with the water in Grand Lake that has caused animals to die and has sent one citizen to hospital,” read the alert.
“Right now we want people to be careful and avoid contact with the water until we can find out exactly what is going on,” Julie Towers, Nova Scotia’s deputy minister of environment and climate change, told CTV News.
“Don’t swim, don’t boat, don’t let your pets run in there.”
The city says the cause of the issue is currently under investigation by the province.
In a release Thursday evening, the province says it is testing water samples taken from Grand Lake and Fish Lake, near the Wellington and Enfield areas, for two types of toxins produced by blue-green algae.
The samples will be sent to a private lab to test for pesticides, organic and inorganic materials, as well as petroleum hydrocarbons.
About 9,000 people in Halifax, Enfield, Elmsdale, Lantz and East Hants are supplied with water from the Grand Lake watershed through the East Hants Regional Water Utility.
Halifax Water issued a statement Thursday morning informing their tap water consumers that their water continues to be safe for normal use and consumption.
Halifax Water does have plants in the area for their municipal water supply, but none are fed by Grand Lake.
According to James Campbell, communications manager at Halifax Water, there are three plants out there – Bomont, Bennery and Collins Park, which are all separate from Grand Lake. None of them receive their water supply from Grand Lake.
“The simple message is if you’re a Halifax Water customer, no matter where you live in our service area, your water is safe to drink,” says Campbell.
If you are not sure where you water comes from, you can check on the Halifax Water website.
Oakfield Provincial Park staff were putting up warning signs and roping off the beach area at Grand Lake this morning after one person and a couple of pets became ill after coming into contact with the water.
Towers says two dogs died.
“What we do know is there is obviously a toxin. Whether it’s human-caused or a natural source is to be determined,” Towers says.
Water samples will be taken and spotters will be looking for evidence into the source of the contamination from the air.
“We are putting a helicopter in the air this afternoon to see if we can see if it is something obvious, something visual and that will help focus where the sampling should occur,” says Towers.
Nova Scotia’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans isn’t taking any chances either.
They are suspending all fishing on the Grand Lake watershed until further notice. This includes the entirety of the Shubenacadie River.