Posts Tagged "water"


Plan to ban single-use plastics has First Nations with long-term drinking water advisories worried | CBC News

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A plan to ban single-use plastics in Canada has First Nations with long-term drinking water advisories that rely on bottled water concerned about how they will be affected.

Single-use plastics, as defined by the United Nations Environment Programme, are disposable plastics from packaging that are often intended to only be used once. These include grocery bags, food packaging, straws, cutlery and bottles.

Last week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the federal government intends to ban single-use plastics as early as 2021.

“My family would have less plastic waste if we didn’t rely on bottled water for fresh drinking water on reserve,” read a tweet by Courtney Skye following the announcement.

She lives in Six Nations of the Grand River in southern Ontario, where only part of the community is connected to a water line fed by a state-of-the-art UV water treatment plant.

The rest of the community, including Skye’s family, has cistern water tanks attached to their houses for water to use for washing clothes and showering. There are stations where bottles can be bought or refilled with water for drinking and cooking.

“There is a need for First Nations’ perspective on a lot of different issues,” she said. “People should be questioning and looking for it when they’re seeing these types of announcements made on things that affect the whole society.”

According to Indigenous Services Canada, there are currently 58 long-term drinking water advisories in effect on reserves, which the federal government plans to end by March 2021. Since 2015, 84 long-term advisories have been lifted.

‘A terrible thing to have no water’

June Baptiste is a councillor for Lhoosk’uz Dene Nation in B.C. which currently relies on bottled water brought into the community for clean drinking water. Any ban on single-use plastics that would affect access to bottled water would not go over well in the community, she said.

“That would be a terrible thing to have no water out there, without no water plant,” she said.

Lhoosk’uz Dene Nation has running water connected to its homes, but Baptiste said it is contaminated with heavy metals that leave the water yellow and smelling like sulfur. 

Even when the water is boiled, it remains discoloured and foul-smelling, she said.

The community is hoping to get a chlorinated water treatment plant soon, but Baptiste is unsure of the project’s timeline. If the community didn’t have access to single-use plastic water bottles, she said it would be a disaster.

“How would they get water out to us? They would definitely have to build that water plant right away.”  

Emergency water supply

Even communities with water treatment plants sometimes rely on bottled water in emergencies — like when the water treatment plant in Carry the Kettle Nakoda First Nation in Saskatchewan burned down this winter.

The Carry the Kettle Nakoda Nation’s water treatment plant burned down in February. (Submitted by Jay Bouchard)

It’s estimated that it will be another six months before the water treatment plant is operational again. In the meantime, water is being trucked in from nearby communities and poured into a reservoir to feed the community’s plumbing, while bottled water is being used for drinking.

“If we don’t continue to have this water available to people, then there’s going to be a real cry for water that is going to be devastating to communities in the future,” said Tim Haywahe, a resident of the community.

Indigenous Services Canada said in an email they are committed to lifting all long-term drinking water advisories on reserve by March 2021.

“With every advisory lifted, that means one more community that no longer has to rely on bottled water,” the statement said. 

“For all initiatives to reduce plastic waste, the government of Canada’s approach will take into consideration accessibility and health and safety. Accessibility and health needs of the public will be taken into account before any targeted action on single-use plastic products is taken.”

The statement added that a ban is not the only option, as recycling rates can be “dramatically improved.”

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In the toilet: when your ‘water-resistant’ phone isn’t covered for water damage

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It’s every smartphone owner’s nightmare. You go into a washroom and accidentally drop your phone into the bowl.

Your photos, contacts, texts — your life — in the toilet.

Cellphone manufacturers are selling more “water-resistant” models — including most recent Apple iPhones, Samsung’s Galaxy 5 and Huawei’s P20 Pro — that are supposed to remain sealed for up to half an hour at a depth of one metre.

But Elianne Abramovich of Vancouver says she found out the hard way that those promises aren’t exactly water-tight. She dropped her new Huawei P20 Pro into a toilet, and it died. She’s been fighting for a replacement ever since.

“First I thought, ‘Oh crap,'” says Abramovich, 24. “But I had bought this phone knowing that it can withstand water.”

Instead, she says she was told she would have to pay for potentially costly repairs, or buy a new phone.

Huawei Canada now says it “welcomes the opportunity” to look into her complaint.

Abramovich’s Huawei phone was supposed to be water resistant for 30 minutes in one metre of water; instead, it failed after 40 seconds under some 12 centimetres. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Warranties are void

CBC News checked warranties from Huawei, Samsung and Apple. All state the limited warranties are void if their water resistant models get water damage.

“I think most people can understand it makes no sense,” says Abramovich. “You’re saying you have a feature, but then if it doesn’t work, well sorry, that’s too bad for you.”

Abramovich says since she lives in “Rain-couver,” she thought it was a smart move to buy a phone plan through service provider Fido that included a Huawei P20 Pro.

Water resistance was a “selling feature, for sure,” she says. 

Abramovich was on a Mexican vacation in March when her phone dropped briefly into a toilet. (Submitted by Elianne Abramovich)

To be extra cautious, Abramovich held off using it until she got a protective case and a screen protector.

But in March, one month after getting her P20 Pro, she accidentally let it slip into a toilet while on a Mexican vacation.

She immediately placed it upright in a bag of rice — as recommended on the internet — and kept it in her air-conditioned hotel room. But it was dead.

‘Completely water resistant’ 

Huawei’s P20 Pro is billed on the company’s website as being “real world ready.”

“Don’t let location or weather curb your creativity,” it says over a photo of a water droplet-covered phone. “Go wild with … IP67-rated P20 Pro, that’s completely … water resistant up to 1m.”

The “IP” stands for “international protection,” a standard agreed upon by the cellphone industry; the six is the dust rating, the seven is the second-highest water-resistance rating, promising protection in up to one metre of freshwater for 30 minutes.

Abramovich wants to know why her P20 Pro died after just 40 seconds in some 12 centimetres of water.

She insists it didn’t ricochet off the toilet rim or take a hard hit.

“I take responsibility that it was an accident,” says Abramovich. “But the fact that this is supposed to be able to go underwater for one metre for half an hour, that’s not what happened. It killed the phone.”

Huawei responds

Vancouver-based tech expert Graham Williams doesn’t think the problem is with the general IP67 rating.

He believes some individual phones might not be sealed properly — and manufacturers have to acknowledge that.

“Water damage should not occur to that phone during that time,” says Williams. “So if water damage does [happen], we’re looking at a manufacturer’s defect.”

Abramovich has fought to have her phone replaced.

When she returned to Vancouver, she says Fido passed the problem to Huawei because it was outside the carrier’s 15-day “satisfaction guarantee.”

Samsung promotes the water resistance of its Galaxy 5, even recommending it be rinsed with tap water after contact with other liquids. (Samsung/YouTube)

In turn, Huawei representatives told her she could send the phone to an independent repair centre in Ontario, but that water damage isn’t covered.

That’s echoed in the warranty posted online and in a small booklet included with the phone. Both state it “does not cover damage resulting from …exposure to liquid, moisture or dampness.”

An email from Huawei Support Canada to CBC News also reinforced that position.

“If [our authorized service centre] finds any indicator of …water damage, according to the policy, the warranty gets voided,” stated the email.

But a spokesperson for the company issued a conflicting statement.

“Huawei Canada honours warranty claims for liquid damage to all P20 products unless there is clear misuse or customer induced damage to the product,” says Benjamin Howes. “It should also be noted that the benefit of any doubt for these types of cases always goes to customer(s).”

Howes has promised to look into Abramovich’s case.

Of the other cellphone makers contacted by the CBC, Apple would only say its website “is a good resource” for questions about its warranty. Samsung did not supply a comment by deadline, although its website recommends rinsing its IP67 cellphones under a tap if exposed to liquid.

While Fido also didn’t respond, Abramovich says after our enquiries the service provider offered what amounted to a half price discount on a new phone.

But given her experience, she wants to see all cellphone companies revise their “water resistant” promises.

“I really think there’s a bigger issue with the warranty. And until that starts getting looked at, I’m not really going to be happy,” says Abramovich.

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Pipes at VGH burst, sending dirty water into operating rooms while patients had surgery

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A full complement of 18 to 20 operating rooms at Vancouver General Hospital will finally be back in use Thursday after a burst water sprinkler pipe caused unsterile water to leak into multiple operating rooms through lights and air vents while surgeries were taking place.

Postmedia has learned that midway through long, complex cancer and other urgent surgeries on Oct. 30, medical teams noticed water dripping from a handful of operating room (OR) ceilings, potentially compromising the safety of patients undergoing surgery. Operations in progress were completed, but half the ORs were then closed, resulting in the cancellation and rescheduling of nearly 100 urgent and lifesaving cases.

Hospital officials confirmed the crisis Wednesday.

A mishap during construction work on the third floor of the hospital was what led to the burst pipe, causing water to leak through a mechanical subfloor just above all the ORs on the second floor of the Jim Pattison Pavilion. The water then dripped through light and ventilation shafts into the ORs, but fortuitously, not directly onto anesthetized patients undergoing surgery.

It was 11 a.m. and several operations — some of them five hours in duration and longer — were in progress, with numerous patients in the holding area. Surgeons and infection control experts made immediate assessments on whether it was safe to continue the operations. In one case, a surgeon decided it was not safe to continue working in the leaking OR, so the patient on the table was temporarily closed up with sutures and the medical team moved the patient to an adjacent room where the all-day operation resumed.

One cardiac case that was in a critical stage proceeded in the leaking room as hospital staff sealed off the sterile area with plastic.

Dr. Marcel Dvorak, a spinal surgeon who is associate medical director at Vancouver Coastal Health, said multiple ORs had “active water” dripping into the peripheral areas of the ORs. Nurses and other hospital staff “flew into action” using blankets to soak up water on the floors and suctioning water off equipment and surfaces. Tens of millions of dollars worth of electronic and sterile surgical equipment had to be protected and sealed with plastic.

In the 10 days since the leak, dehumidifiers have been drying out the moisture and new drywall has been installed.

There were no “untoward” incidents involving patients developing infections or other surgical complications as a result of the mishap, according to hospital administrators. The event was disclosed to all patients effected.

In one OR, the operation continued without incident for a number of hours, and in another, a patient was moved while under anesthetic “because it was deemed to be the safest thing to do.” Several rooms were considered “mechanically safe” with electrical and humidity systems intact so operations in progress were completed, but 13 other cases that were scheduled for that day were cancelled, Dvorak said.

“All emergency cases, like trauma, were managed, and that’s saying a lot because 60 per cent of our cases are emergencies — like transplants, ruptured aneurysms, cardiac emergencies, spinal cord injuries, etc., which means they are unscheduled,” he said.

The construction work going on the floor above the operating rooms is a $102-million OR expansion that will see 16 new ORs open in 2021.

VGH does about 16,800 surgical cases a year and with the addition of 16 more, capacity will increase to about 19,000 cases per year. Typically surgeries that take place at VGH are complex cases, while UBC Hospital shoulders the “more predictable” day surgeries.

“VGH treats the sickest of the sick from all over the province,” Dvorak said.

The existing ORs at VGH are 30 years old and considered too small for many types of cases requiring big medical teams, robotics and imaging equipment. Eventually, the existing ORs could be decommissioned or replaced. Dvorak said the OR expansion is “on time and on budget.”

He said anyone who has ever done renovations knows they can expect problems of some sort. “This was an out of the blue incident.”

Andrea Bisaillon is VGH’s operations director for surgeries.

Arlen Redekop /


Andrea Bisaillon, an operations director at VGH, said: “The exact details of who did what is now being investigated. Our first priority was focusing on keeping patients and staff safe.”

She said PCL is the overall contractor for the construction project. The restoration company that has been retained for the salvage effort is called Proactive and “they are extremely aware of the fact that our first priority is the safety and lives of our patients.”

Dvorak said emergency preparedness exercises that hospital staff undergo to prepare for natural disasters such as earthquakes or other crises proved their worth.

“Simulation exercises that we do to learn how to handle mass casualties and other critical incidents help us prepare for these kinds of scenarios.”

Carrie Stefanson, a spokeswoman for the hospital and health authority, praised the efforts of hospital staff, both during and after the crisis.

During a week of repairs and remediation, VGH has continued to meet the needs for emergent, urgent and transplant surgeries, including a cardiac diversion case from Royal Columbian Hospital.”

The leak issues at VGH evoke a similar — if not more serious — crisis at Surrey Memorial Hospital six years ago when contractors broke a water main causing knee-deep flooding in the emergency department and other areas.

Twitter: @MedicineMatters

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