Yellowknife residents at Friday meeting happy latest arsenic data now available online – North

Yellowknife residents say they have fewer concerns about arsenic in local lakes after hearing directly from officials with the Northwest Territories government.

About a dozen people attended a town-hall meeting Friday, hosted by Kam Lake MLA Kieron Testart, where they were able to take their concerns in person to the territory’s top doctor and health minister.

“It’s nice to see the green dot in Back Bay,” said Cristine Bayly, referring to the coloured dots the Department of Health and Social Services used to show the arsenic concentration in the waters around the city.  

When Bayly moved into her Back Bay home 40 years ago, she was told: Don’t drink the water.

Now she’s trying to sell that home and wants to tell the truth when potential home buyers ask about arsenic in nearby lakes.

After Friday’s meeting with health officials, she says she feels better telling someone the water behind her house is safe.

“Is it a concern for someone who doesn’t know the Yellowknife situation and the mine, and hears about arsenic in the lakes? Well, I’ve just had a lot of my fears allayed,” Bayly said, adding she hopes to get the soil around her property tested for arsenic as well.

The latest data shows the water behind Back Bay has fewer than 10 parts per billion of arsenic, which is the lowest possible rating.

Lakes with green points mean their arsenic levels are below Health Canada’s drinking guidelines and are considered safe for swimming and fishing. Those with yellow points do not pose significant risk for arsenic-related health effects and are safe for swimming and fishing. People should avoid fishing, swimming and harvesting berries, mushrooms and other edible plants within the immediate vicinity of lakes with orange, red or purple points. (N.W.T. Department of Health and Social Services)

There is data for about a dozen lakes around the city, the lowest having between zero and 9.9 parts per billion of dissolved arsenic, and the highest having more than 500 parts per billion.

Health Canada’s standard for drinking water is fewer than 10 parts per billion of dissolved arsenic.

N.W.T. health minister Glen Abernethy also re-stated his commitment to provide signs at some of the worst-contaminated sites. 

The latest data is now available on the department’s website as well.

Yellowknife resident Jason Simpson says he feels confident telling his kids where to swim now that he has data on arsenic in Yellowknife lakes. (Alex…

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