Feel good about your information and become a local news champion today

Calgary councillor calling for better communication after boil water advisory

The City of Calgary councillor representing southwest communities in ward 13 who were under a boil water advisory last weekend said that residents were frustrated with the lack of communication on the issue. 

Ward 13 Coun. Dan McLean asked city administration during question period at Tuesday’s regular meeting of council, about the lengths they went to notify residents in Silverado, Belmont and Yorkville about the water main issue and boil water advisory. 

In the afternoon of June 1, a water-main break occurred in South Calgary affecting the communities of Silverado, Belmont and Yorkville. 

Late on Thursday evening, Alberta Health Services issued a boil water advisory as a precautionary step for all residents in the affected communities. McLean said he received many calls from residents criticizing the lack of communication throughout the process. 

McLean said that although he appreciates the effort and time that went into repairing the issue fairly quickly, there could have been better communication. 

“It’s unfortunate, accidents happened. Communication is key. I think we did good but we can always do better,” said McLean. 

Doug Morgan, General Manager of Operational Services at the City of Calgary, said communication started right after the water-main break. He detailed the lengths they went to communicate with affected Calgarians.

Late in the evening, after the boil water advisory was issued by Alberta Health Services, the city activated its communications program. By 1 a.m. they began tweeting and issued a media release for the public. 

On Friday morning, promotional social media was launched as well as a press conference to alert Calgarians. 

Signage was deployed within the communities and calls were made to any schools that may have been affected by the boil water advisory and water-main break. 

311 was also updated so anyone from the community who concerns could receive information. 

The Alberta Emergency Alert System was not utilized due to the alerts being city-wide. 

“As part of our continuous improvement, we’re going to evaluate whether we can engage with the province and look at that system or another system the city could invest in to improve our communications during critical events,” said Morgan. 

Additional communication could be considered

Coun. McLean said that citizens were already irritated with construction in the area. He added that many residents suggested that the water trucks could have come out sooner and that they should be compensated due to a lack of water.

The councillor did post the message to his own Twitter, plus a follow-up message a day later. He posted community messages to Facebook after the fact.

McLean called for putting issues like that on the Emergency Albert System or perhaps providing residents in the affected areas with direct phone calls with recorded updates as the issue progresses.  

“I believe we have to take the technology where we could have sent out a text to everybody in that area saying exactly what was going on,” said McLean.

Alberta Health Services lifted the boil water advisory on June 4, 2023, providing residents with instructions on how to proceed with flushing their water lines. The steps can be found at ://myhealth.alberta.ca/Alberta/Pages/Boil-water-advisory-how-to-use-water-safely.aspx