North Battleford Update: Deaths May Be Linked to Drinking Water : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread


NORTH BATTLEFORD, Sask. (CP) -- The deaths of three people may be linked to a parasitic outbreak that caused at least 20 people to fall ill in west-central Saskatchewan.

Two of the deaths, one in early April and one in early May, were linked to cryptosporidium during a review of hospital admissions and deaths at Battlefords Union Hospital, said a news release from the health district.

"In the most recent case, cryptosporidia was found in the patient's stool sample."

All three patients had immune-system deficiencies and would have been at high risk from the outbreak.

Residents were told April 25 to boil their water after 10 people became ill from the parasite and more than 100 others complained of abdominal cramps and diarrhea.

At the time, health officials said most of the confirmed cases were teenagers.

"My personal reaction is sadness -- sadness in our community," Mayor Wayne Ray said in an interview. "It's a relatively small community. I haven't had the names yet, but I probably know the people. And that saddens me to see that a situation like this may be linked to deaths of people that we know and take to our heart."

Cryptosporidium is a microscopic parasite that lives in the intestines of humans and animals. It does not cause serious illness in most people. Many do not suffer from any symptoms, while others experience abdominal discomfort, fevers, and diarrhea.

The bug usually is passed from the body in two weeks.

The concern is for people with compromised immune systems such as AIDS patients or those on cortico-steroids.

City commissioner Jim Toye said last year's crisis in Walkerton, Ont., has made people more anxious about the water supply.

Seven people died and 2,300 became ill when E. coli bacteria entered Walkerton's municipal drinking system in May 2000.

"Walkerton is certainly at the back of our minds," Toye said.

The North Battleford outbreak has been tied to the community's water treatment plant. A water filtration problem is believed to have let the parasite in the water supply from the North Saskatchewan River.

A consultant's interim report recommended several thousands of dollars worth of piping be replaced immediately and there be better and more comprehensive monitoring.

The mayor said the situation in his community is not comparable to Walkerton because the water in North Battleford is safe to drink if it's boiled.

"It's an entirely different organism," Ray said. "It's a parasite that is not normally tested anywhere in Canada. A couple of cities do it, but it's not required. Out of this, probably it will become a standard."

The same parasite resulted in about 100 deaths and made 400,000 other people ill when it was found in Milwaukee's drinking water in 1993.

-- Rachel Gibson (, May 03, 2001


Tainted water cases surface outside Sask.

WebPosted Sat May 5 18:11:07 2001 NORTH BATTLEFORD, SASK. - A microscopic parasite found in North Battleford's water and suspected of causing three deaths may have infected people in other communities in Saskatchewan and Alberta, a city commissioner said Saturday.

INDEPTH: Drinking Water

LINKS: Websites related to this story

Health authorities are advising recent visitors to North Battleford to watch for symptoms of cryptosporidium infection after three suspected cases were reported in the Edmonton area. "We are very concerned because it is not only in North Battleford, " said city commissioner Jim Toye said. "It has had an effect on people who have visited North Battleford."

INDEPTH: Cryptosporidium FAQ

Officials in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan have confirmed four cases of cryptosporidium infection. But they say three of those people were in North Battleford recently.

Another 20 cases have been confirmed in Saskatoon, where all but one case can be directly connected to North Battleford.

There are now at least 36 confirmed cases of illness from cryptosporidium cysts in North Battlefrord, although the number of people afflicted may be well over 100.

Officials say fewer people are showing up in hospital with symptoms. But residents have been told to keep boiling their water before drinking it or using it for cooking or bathing. The order will remain in place until further notice.

Inspecting the water in North Battleford

Randy Strelioff, director of public utilities in North Battleford, said Friday that it's believed the parasite entered the water system in the three weeks following March 20 when a chemical that forms a barrier was added to a filtration tank.

He said it often takes time for the chemical blanket to form.

A sewage channel upstream from the treatment facility

A possible source of the contamination is a sewage channel located two kilometres upstream from North Battleford's water treatment facility. City officials say the sewage may have seeped into the treatment plant.

Symptoms of cryptosporidiosis include watery diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea, low-grade fever, dehydration, and weight loss.

Doctors say people with a healthy immune system usually recover from the infection in about two weeks.

Many people in the area, who were ordered on April 27 to boil their water, say they're angry and shocked by the outbreak. Some residents claim that as many as half of the community's 14,000 residents have shown signs of illness over the past few months. bin/templates/view.cgi?/news/2001/05/05/battlefor_mom_010505

-- Martin Thompson (, May 05, 2001.


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Provinces Mon May 7, 2:59 pm

Judicial inquiry will look into bacterial outbreak

A judicial inquiry has been called to probe the outbreak of cryptosporidium in North Battleford's drinking water. Saskatchewan Premier Lorne Calvert says that a Queen's Bench judge will soon be appointed to lead the inquiry. The panel will have the authority to question anyone involved with the parasitic outbreak. Calvert says it's a matter of making sure that it never happens again. Earlier today, a preliminary provincial report outlined some the problems which may have led to the contamination. Among them was a faulty filtration system and a lack of management at the treatment plant. As well, the report said that the water source could be exposed to untreated sewage at peak times of usage. The parasite is believed to be linked to three deaths. Health officials have confirmed 44 cases of cryptosporidium.


Mon May 7, 4:56 pm

North Battleford facing fines

Saskatchewan Environment Minister Buckley Belanger says that the city of North Battleford is facing fines in connection with a parasitic outbreak. Belanger says the province is supposed to be informed of any sewage dumping but that officials in Saskatchewan were never made aware of the problem. A report earlier today noted that raw sewage may have leaked into the city's water source at peak times of usage. It's sewage treatment plant is just two kilometres downstream from the water treatment facility. A cryptosporidium outbreak is thought to be responsible for three deaths and a total of 44 illnesses. A judicial review has been launched by the province. The report also suggests that the water treatment plant wasn't properly managed.

-- Rachel Gibson (, May 07, 2001.

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