A warning about thawing pipes

The District of Elkford and Elk Valley RCMP are reminding residents of Fernie, Sparwood and Elkford that using methyl hydrate to thaw frozen pipes is not common practice and is not an acceptable method.

The reminder comes after the RCMP mistakenly told The Free Press in the April 21 RCMP report that using methyl hydrate is common practice.

On March 6 the District was advised that a water service line in the area was frozen.  Two attempts were made to thaw the water line using thaw machines.

The District was subsequently informed that methyl hydrate was put into the water service line in an attempt to thaw the line.

On March 18, the District confirmed that two litres of methyl hydrate were put into the water line and that the water service line was capped so that the methyl hydrate would not flow into the building when the service line thawed.

The District was concerned with the potential backflow contamination of the public water distribution system in the area when the service line thawed.

The District contacted Interior Health and, based on their direction, the District removed as much of the methyl hydrate from the frozen service line as possible, and then flushed the line with 150 litres of water.

The District connected a hose to the service line to empty the water from the line to the ground when it thawed.

Last week, the District told the resident to reconnect to the municipal water system.

Using methyl hydrate is a violation of the provincial Drinking Water Protection Act.

Section 25 of the Act prohibits a person from introducing anything into a domestic water system if it will result in or is likely to result in a health hazard.

Interior Health advised that a person who violates the Drinking Water Protection Act commits an offence and is liable on conviction, in a case that is not a continuing offence, to a fine of up to $200,000 or imprisonment of up to 12 months, or both.

A violation ticket can also be issued under section 23 (1) and 23 (2) of the Act in the amount of $575.

Interior Health told the District of Elkford, “ingestion of methyl hydrate is extremely dangerous and can result in blindness or death. The dynamics of water systems are too complex to state with certainty whether the methyl hydrate, if it entered the water main, would be diluted to non-harmful levels or travel in a concentrate slug to someone’s tap.”

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