City of White Rock defends ‘rumour’ post

City of White Rock defends ‘rumour’ post

Different test commissioned after private analysis showed glyphosate in water

A resident’s privately administered water test, which indicated trace amounts of glyphosate in White Rock’s water, prompted the city to test the water supply for itself, then release a statement earlier this month saying it’s only a rumour that the herbicide is present in the city’s water supply.

On Aug. 20, city critic Ross Buchanan emailed several representatives at Fraser Health, Provincial Health Officer Perry Kendall and Minister of Environment George Heymann with the findings of a test he administered Aug. 12 and 13 in White Rock and Metro Vancouver.

Using glyphosate test strips, which he received from American-based company Abraxis, Buchanan determined that there was glyphosate in White Rock’s water and no glyphosate in Metro Vancouver’s water.

The City of White Rock – which was not included in Buchanan’s email – was forwarded a copy of the email and responded by conducting a glyphosate test through a different company, Exova, and followed that up with a post on its “Rumours and Misperceptions” webpage.

“There was no glyophosate in the water. All tests concluded that glyphosate was undetectable in White Rock water,” the city post – which initially included Buchanan’s name and contact information – reads.

However, according to Abraxis, the Exova lab report measured glyphosate down to a concentration of 10 parts per billion, where as the Abraxis test measures to a concentration of 2.5 parts per billion.

Buchanan said the city is being deceitful saying there’s no glyphosate in the water.

“This is not about water, this is not about glyphosate, this is about the inability… to speak the truth to the citizens,” Buchanan told Peace Arch News last week.

He referred to an internal email between city utilities manager Dr. Saad Jasim and chief administrative officer Dan Bottrill, dated Sept. 1, which said the city’s glyphosate test showed results that “are below the detection limit,” which is not, Buchanan argued, the same as the posted message that there was no glyphosate in the water.

Bottrill called Buchanan’s test “very malicious.”

“I find it very incredible that people are now making things up. It probably speaks to the fact that we have a water quality product that’s now running very well. It must be disappointing for those who love to have some political mischief and mayhem. What’s left to do? You make stuff up, and you hope that it sticks,” Bottrill told PAN. “People do things like this for many different reasons. I feel very sorry for people that do that, but at the end of the day, part of what we’re trying to do is take care of it, address it, get it to stop.”

Told of Bottrill’s response, Buchanan, said: “I have no control over what he says.”

“His back’s up against the wall. He’s really dropped the ball and made a mess of this whole water thing,” he said.

Bottrill said the city wanted to get ahead of the glyphosate “misinformation” by doing a test and creating a post on its rumours webpage.

“Despite the fact that we had every confidence that this kind of ridiculous allegation wasn’t true, out of an abundance of caution, we did actually do a test,” he said.

Bottrill questioned the credibility of Buchanan’s test.

PAN contacted Abraxis for an explanation of why the Exova lab report and the Abraxis strip test show different results.

“Ross Buchanan detected a glyphosate level between 2.5 and 10ppb. So (the city is) correct reporting that there was no glyphosate detected at 10ppb, but that does not mean that there is no glyphosate in the sample. It certainly is not an unfounded rumour, as reported on the city web page,” sales associate Jane Love wrote to PAN in an email.

However, Jasim told PAN Thursday that he questions the scientific basis of tests done with paper strips.

“It could be a contaminated piece of paper or contaminated glass – anything…it was not following sample-test procedures accepted by any government organization worldwide,” he said, adding that detection limits of .01 milligrams per litre are established far below the Canadian guidelines for water safety set at .28 milligrams per litre.

“We are talking about micrograms per litre – anything under the established detection limits is not an issue,” he said, adding that the city’s test was done on well water from 100 metres below the ground.

“The people who question this are not scientists and the do not have any understanding of scientific procedures – this is a political campaign, not a science issue.”

Buchanan – who earlier this year received support from the Office of the Information and Privacy Commission, which ordered the city to release documents pertaining to the purchase of the water utility, but has faced a legal challenge from the city said he’s not surprised with the city’s water-test results.

“If you really wanted to test for glyphosate, you would use a more precise methodology,” Buchanan said. “Despite pointing that out to (Bottrill), presenting the facts, he continues to maliciously distribute and publish – even today – misleading information to the citizens.”

Asked about his letter, name and contact information being posted on the city website, Buchanan confirmed he filed a complaint to the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner but said “that is the least of my concern.”

Buchanan noted the city’s post also indicates he ordered the water test online, whereas he actually spoke to Abraxis biologist Diane Hulboy about his concerns prior to ordering the test.

Not long after its publication on the city website, the email was removed and re-posted with Buchanan’s name and contact information redacted.

Bottrill said the city replaced the email “out of an abundance of caution.”

“The fact that we redacted it, I’m not sure we really did need to do that, to be fair,” Bottrill told PAN, noting that it “doesn’t take a rocket scientist” to figure out Buchanan was the individual who sent the email to Fraser Health and government officials.

– with files from Alex Browne