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Saskatchewan mental-health hospital to be audited after irregular water tests

Red Deer Advocate - 10/26/2019

NORTH BATTLEFORD, Sask. — An independent audit is to be conducted into a mental-health hospital in northwestern Saskatchewan following water tests that showed higher than normal levels of copper and lead, says a government official.

Mike Carr, deputy minister of central services, says the province learned Oct. 17 that there were some questions about water quality at the Saskatchewan Hospital North Battleford.

Water testing at the mental-health facility "showed irregularities and inconsistency in the results that indicate levels of copper or lead may be higher than desirable levels," Carr said Friday.

"It's been preliminary testing," he added. "We felt, out of an abundance of caution, we should take steps to ensure that all users of that facility have access to good drinking water."

There is no immediate health risk and steps have been taken to ensure potable water is available, he said.

The results of other water tests are expected sometime next week, Carr said.

"We expect once we've got more clarification, remedial steps need to be taken, if any."

The City of North Battleford said on Twitter that the hospital is experiencing an internal issue and the water that did not originate from the city's supply.

Earlier Friday, the Opposition NDP called for a full audit of the newly built $407-million facility.

The NDP noted that the government put engineering firm SNC-Lavalin in charge of maintaining the hospital, which has already needed roof repairs.

"The Saskatchewan Party continues to let people down," said NDP Leader Ryan Meili in a statement.

"This hospital is an important and much-needed facility, but the government needs to explain to the people of this province why it has been plagued with issues since it opened."

The hospital opened in March. It replaced a century-old psychiatric- care facility and two correctional facilities.

Carr said the government will determine "in the days ahead" who will do the audit. SNC-Lavalin, the hospital's operator, has been notified, he said.

The water issues were first reported by SNC-Lavalin when staff noticed discolouration in the water, Carr said. The company notified the hospital's builder, Graham Construction.

Potable water was brought in earlier in the week, which the Ministry of Central Services has paid for, Carr said.

When asked if the ministry will send the bill to SNC-Lavalin or Graham Construction, he said "that's a very real likelihood."