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City Council, PUC discuss chlorine

Monday, February 04, 2013   by: Darren Taylor

PUC matters dominated the proceedings at Monday's City Council meeting.

Sault Ste. Marie PUC President and CEO Dominic Parrella told City Council that the utility is committed to communicating with the City (its sole shareholder) and its  customers in its ongoing effort to address the foul taste and odour of local tap water.

Complaints from PUC customers have been ongoing since free chlorine disinfectant was introduced into the city's water, in accordance with provincial regulations, in October 2011.

PUC officials, Council was told, contacted Ipsos Reid to conduct an opinion poll locally in November 2012.

The survey, Council was informed by Parrella, showed that satisfaction with the quality of the drinking water is low, at 50 percent. 

However, Parrella pointed out, once residents were informed of the reason for the change in the disinfection process, 64 percent of respondents say the water is acceptable, and, when told of the benefits of the new process, the majority states the water is acceptable, bringing the acceptability rate among residents up to 84 percent.

The PUC claims free chlorine improves quality and cost of tap water.

Ward One Councillor Steve Butland asked Chris Kresin of Kresin Engineering, who accompanied Parrella in the presentation of Monday night's report to Council, if the objectionable taste and odour of Sault Ste. Marie's tap water will "ever go away."

Kresin replied there will always be a percentage of complaints whenever and wherever free chlorine is involved in tap water.

Parrella insisted taste and odour of the Sault's tap water will improve with the passage of time, but added it will not taste or smell the way it did in the pre-chlorine days.

"We'll be back to Council to report on our progress, but we cannot go back to the way it was, due to provincial regulations., but we are committed to improvement," Parrella said.

Parella advised concerned PUC customers to run tap water until it is cold before consuming it, or refrigerate it before drinking it, adding that running the tap for an extra length of time costs only a few cents extra per day.

In another PUC matter, it was also recommended at Monday's Council meeting that City Solicitor Nuala Kenny of the City's legal department enter into discussions with PUC Services Inc. to amend the existing shareholder agreement.

The City of Sault Ste. Marie is PUC Inc.'s sole shareholder, an arrangement that came into place when the utility was converted from a City commission into a corporation in 2000.

A caucus meeting was held by City Councillors and staff January 17, 2013 as an information seminar, with guidance provided by consulting firm WeirFoulds.

It was recommended that some foggy areas within the shareholder agreement be cleared up, such as putting a limit on the amount of corporate donations from the PUC to entities within the community.

In a recorded vote, Council voted unanimously to direct the City's legal department to re-open the shareholder agreement between the City and the PUC.

Council also voted to accept the PUC's fourth quarter shareholder report as information, and was pleased to hear Parrella report that the PUC's old office on Queen Street East has a buyer, with the deal hopefully closing in April.  Former PUC President and CEO Brian Curran, who retired January 31, informed SooToday.com earlier that the PUC's asking price of $1.5 million for the Queen Street building had been met.  

 

Comments
21
Note: Comments that appear on the site are not the opinion of SooToday.com. If you see an abusive post, please click the link beside the post to report it.
jojoe71 2/4/2013 8:59:01 PM Report

Is everybody happy now :)
andrews 2/4/2013 9:01:45 PM Report

I would imagine that the poll questions were designed to get the PUC the results that they wanted..one of the questions apparently was if you wanted the employees to work with an unsafe product(or process)

i would say 95% of people that I poll, do not think the water is satisfactory.

cheers!
(with my newly filtered water)
icecoldstare 2/4/2013 9:15:07 PM Report

50 percent of people don't like the water... But... If you change the questions and put in a bunch of hypotheticals (such as, If the PUC's only choice was to change the current rotten egg/sulpher water to unfiltered used toilet water, what water would you use?) then suddenly 100 percent of people like the current water.
I'm In 2/4/2013 9:17:25 PM Report

Parrella wants you to run your tap water before you drink it, it will only cost you a few extra cents on your water bill ( I use Brita filters to save me from running my water to make the PUC rich). Well when you get Parrella's pay than maybe you can do this, but I thougth there is a water shortage and the lakes water levels are lower(what a smoke screen). Boy the media knows how to brainwash people.
Entity 2/4/2013 9:18:06 PM Report

The survey was designed to lead participants; it says so right in the article.

"The survey showed that satisfaction with the quality of the drinking water is low, at 50 percent. However, once residents were informed of the reason for the change in the disinfection process, 64 percent of respondents say the water is acceptable, when told of the benefits of the new process, the majority states the water is acceptable, bringing the acceptability rate among residents up to 84 percent."

A terribly disingenuous survey; not designed to gather daming information, but to sway public opinion.

Futhermore:

Ward One Councillor Steve Butland asked Chris Kresin of Kresin Engineering, if the objectionable taste and odour of Sault Ste. Marie's tap water will "ever go away."

Chris Kresin replied, "No".

What a toolbag.
TOOLY 2/4/2013 9:22:11 PM Report

I guess all is well in PUC land. If you ask the right people the right questions you will get the answer you want.

The only thing left now is to accept the answers they gave us, and donate more money for the Curran shrine.
nerfertari 2/4/2013 10:59:18 PM Report

I read a Sault Star comment that only 1000 people were surveyed. Isn't that like 1% of the Soo questioned?
icecoldstare 2/4/2013 11:06:39 PM Report

nerfertari

Statistically that sample size is large enough to be representative of the Sault population. They could expand the sample size but the results would only vary slightly.

It really comes down to the questions they ask and how/if they try to influence the poll.
JustMe1234567 2/4/2013 11:31:23 PM Report

I want to see the poll!

Full transparency I say! I want to see what the questions were for myself before I can formulate an opinion.

I heard that one of the questions was something along the lines of "would you pay one dollar for 5 years to change it back" ??

If that was really a question asked, I gotta see this for myself and in what context it was asked.

amirite?

Also you would think a larger segment of our population could have been polled for something this decisive by the fancy dancy Ipson Reid (I wonder how much that cost to do hmph)

I mean c'mon people the Sootoday poll gets 2 or 3 thousand votes- and most of the times they are just goofy questions. I am seriously worried about the quality of my water, it's just..not right.

Poll please! Let's see it, cough it up PUC.
JellyFisch 2/4/2013 11:31:49 PM Report

The sample could have been biased. Sampling people from areas with well water. But probably not. The same was probably derived from individuals who pay water bills.

a sample size of 1000 from a population of 75 000 - those with well water roughly, is accurate enough. As sample size increases it becomes more representative of the population.

How they worded questions might be another story. But the last time I was in the Sault was over Christmas, the water tasted a little bit like chlorine. But as I understand it, the water has less chlorine in it and zero of some other chemical (I can't think of the name of it at the moment) which was used to mask the smell and taste of the chlorine. What I am puzzled by is that people are complaining (at least through the comments section of Soo Today) of weird rashes or sores as a result of the water. With the reduction in overall chemicals, would it not be logical to assume that the sores would have been worse before they reduced the amount of chemicals?

What I also have come to understand, if they did not use this technique, they would have to expand under ground pipes. Meaning they would dig up roads meters into the ground and add pipe to be a certain length, costing millions of more dollars city wide. So this reduction of chemicals saved money on chemicals, and also the need to not increase the length of water pipes.

The Taj Mahal? Good idea in my opinion. In 50 years the building on Second Line would be 100 years old and the cost to operate 3 buildings, do repairs, and even spending gas to do errands between 3 places would be a lot more than say constructing the new building, which is EPEAT? rated. Sure the cost is large now. But in the long run, it is very cost effective. See: "Why we make bad decisions" on TED Talks. It will elaborate how the human mind views spending or accumulating money. $10 000 000 to build the new building now, and save on operating costs? or $12 000 000 to operate and maintain aging buildings over the next 50 years? The analogy isn't the best but I hope you get the gist of it. I also realize those numbers aren't the true numbers of construction costs at all.
Shortz 2/5/2013 5:50:45 AM Report

nerfertari says:

"I read a Sault Star comment that only 1000 people were surveyed. Isn't that like 1% of the Soo questioned?"

Did you fail math in school? 1000 would be 1% of 100 000. You're about 25% off on the Soo's population!
soorez1 2/5/2013 6:24:53 AM Report

Since changing the sanitizer, our water smells terrible. When filling the tub for a bath or running the shower, the chlorine is so strong it smells like we are at the municipal pool. We already spend a lot of money on our water, now we have to spend more on filters, so we can get past the smell to drink it. There must be a better way for this to be done...
switchback 2/5/2013 8:13:28 AM Report

Hey SHORTZ,

Before you criticize someone else about their math skills, you should check your own.
1000 people of 75000 people is 1.3% so nerfertari is pretty close.

Besides, the discussion was about PUC and the water and NOT someones Math Skills.

You need to stop being one of those people that always has something negative to say regardless of the topic.
nerfertari 2/5/2013 8:30:04 AM Report

Shortz, 1000/75000 really is 1.3 reoccurring, sorry for misleading you.
thesharr 2/5/2013 8:55:13 AM Report

If we could see the buildup of crud in our pipes under the road delivering our water to our homes,we would understand why chlorine is added.We would think differently.crud - definition of crud by the Free Online Dictionary, Thesaurus ...

a. A coating or an incrustation of filth or refuse.
Coo1 2/5/2013 9:36:47 AM Report

The water tastes and smells horrible, and for those of us with skin irritation to chlorine, like my son, its also painful.

We pay for toxic water and they think nothing, to none nonchalantly, ask us to run it and pay a 'bit' more.... lets watch as a 21% increase in contracting bladder cancer and/or a 38% increase in rectal cancer begins in our community because of the Chlorine. (some studies show it is more like an 80% increase for people who drink this sort of water.) We thought we had a lot of cancer in our community now, just wait until we have drank the water for awhile...

I would be interested to see a survey done on how many of us had to buy filters, or switched back to using bottles(bad for the environment and cancer causing), because of the foul smell and taste of our water. The tap water when it sits, or is run, the smell and taste gets worse, not better as PUC would attempt to brainwash us to believe.

We should be seeing a discount, not an increase in rates, for our water usage due to the bad product they sell us.

For a country that has the biggest fresh water lakes in all the world to have such disrespect for water is truly disgusting!
riverman 2/5/2013 11:30:54 AM Report

I was one of those people polled. I answered honestly based upon my own experience and considering the tap water in my home. When the water purification system was changed over I noticed a chlorine smell in my water for about a day. That's it. I do not notice any marked difference in the quality of my water at home or in any of the public drinking fountains I have used at work or elsewhere. Having said that, I admit the poll was definitely worded cleverly: some of the preambles to the questions were obviously carefully drafted by a spin doctor. However, considering the information the poll provided was factual, it was indeed an informative experience and my answers to the crucial questions at hand would have remained the same even without the "propoganda."

As far as the new building goes, I believe it was a necessary investment and a wise corporate decision.
sooboy 2/5/2013 11:40:53 AM Report

I studied surveys as part of a course at University. If an anti-PUC group had funded a survey the results would have been the exact opposite.
latanima 2/5/2013 3:16:08 PM Report

My family has spent additional money on a water cooler and now has to purchase the accompanying large capacity water containers as needed. Since PUC switched the Sault's water system over, it costs my family more money to drink water, that does not taste or smell awful. Therefore, we have spent money on a water cooler, we continually spend money on water container replacements and it costs money to plug the system in. If my family wasn't health conscious, if we didn't consume large amounts of water and if we weren't financially conscious maybe this water issue wouldn't be so bothersome. However, the fact is our water STINKS and we PAY for this. How is this okay???
Grace 2/5/2013 5:05:02 PM Report

Just a reminder about the public meeting with the PUC Wednesday February 27th starting at 7pm in the Russ Ramsay Room City Hall.
Want answers to your questions it would be a good place to be!
foxylady069 2/5/2013 5:55:58 PM Report

I was one of the people polled at the end of a majority of the questions it the caller asked if I felt better about the change. Such as: the newer process is safer for filtration system workers reducing the amount of chemicals they come into contact with, the old method had fomeldehyd(sp) the new method does not, etc.
Comments
21
Note: Comments that appear on the site are not the opinion of SooToday.com. If you see an abusive post, please click the link beside the post to report it.
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