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Sask-wide emergency alert was 'unintentional,' town says

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An emergency alert concerning drinking water in Maple Creek sent to phones across Saskatchewan Tuesday afternoon was unintentional.

According to Maple Creek’s Economic Development Officer, Gillian LaBoucane, town officials intended for the alert – related to a broken water main – only for people in and around Maple Creek.

The selection of a certain option on the Sask. Alert software led to the advisory having a much wider reach than anyone expected.

“As soon as you select drinking water, it puts it as a broadcast alert. We decided to do a wireless broadcast alert because then anybody with a cellphone will get it,” she explained.

“We didn’t actually realize it would go to the entire province.”

As for the town’s water supply – the main break led to the depressurization of the town’s water system.

The break has been repaired and water service is back up and running for the majority of residents – with the exception of the block where the break occurred.

LaBoucane explained that the water advisory will stay in place until sampling comes back clear.

“So it’ll be at least 24 hours to 36 hours before there's even a chance for it to be lifted.”

As for the fact that Saskatchewan as a whole was notified of Maple Creek’s water issues – LaBoucane found some humour in the situation.

“Well it's one way to put us on the map,” she laughed.

The town has since released a revised alert, only notifying local residents of the water advisory.

In a statement to CTV News, the Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency (SPSA) explained that local jurisdictions that participate in SaskAlert “have the authority to issue alerts that can be broadcast intrusive and non-broadcast intrusive.”

SaskAlerts can be issued by Environment Canada, Saskatchewan ministries, crowns, agencies, the RCMP and local government jurisdictions – which include municipalities and First Nations.

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