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Castlegar reviewing communications after water quality alert

The City of Castlegar may sign up for its own Voyent Alert account after some hiccups getting the word out about a water quality advisory over the weekend.

The advisory was issued Friday afternoon due to increased turbidity as a result of low levels on Lower Arrow Lake, where the city draws its water from. The advisory was rescinded Tuesday after testing showed things back to normal.

Communications manager Bree Seabrook told council this week that things went well from the operations side “but communications were a challenge.”

She said anytime the city wants to send out a notification through the Voyent Alert system, it’s administered by the Regional District of Central Kootenay.

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But not everyone got the notice this time, despite being set up specifically to receive alerts for Castlegar. Seabrook said they haven’t been able to figure out why.

She said the issue was compounded by Meta’s response to the federal government’s Bill C-18, which has resulted in a near-blackout of Canadian media on Facebook and Instagram.

Seabrook said that has “traditionally been the best way to share news, particularly on a Friday before a long weekend, which is the situation we found ourselves in.”

She added her department will come to council with a budget request for a text/email/phone alert system that the city can administer itself.

“Part of the process is finding something that works for us,” she said. “The RDCK has had some challenges with Voyant Alert.”

Seabrook said they have also discussed other ways of getting the word out in such situations, although luckily they haven’t had to do it very often.

Councillor Sue Heaton-Sherstobitoff suggested a digital readout board along Columbia Avenue and noted some businesses, especially restaurants, wondered why the city didn’t contact them directly. Seabrook said they’re looking at that too.

Municipal services manager Chris Hallam said they “don’t know definitively” the source of the increased turbidity but they are trying to pinpoint and control it.

After noticing spikes through regular monitoring, they consulted with Interior Health who recommended issuing the advisory, he said.

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