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PUC approves 2014 budget, discusses brown water

Wednesday, December 11, 2013   by: Darren Taylor

The issue of brown water incidents was one of many discussed at Wednesday’s Sault Ste. Marie PUC Board of Directors meeting.

Sault residents (particularly those in the community’s east end) have suffered through an increased number of unpleasant and frustrating incidents in which discoloured water from built-up sediment in aging water mains has filled their taps, laundry machines, toilets and bathtubs.

PUC President and CEO Dominic Parrella, in a December 2 address to City Council following a November 20 brown water incident, acknowledged the brown water incidents have increased, and pledged that the utility will present a solution to the problem to Council (along with improving PUC customer service response to such incidents) in January.   

Parrella told the Board Wednesday there are more than 150 possible solutions to the problem.

A Committee consisting of PUC staff, City Councillors, Algoma Public Health officials and members of the public will soon ultimately narrow that field of solutions down to one, to be put to Council for its approval in January.

Parrella told reporters Wednesday that rectification of the brown water problem will take at least two years, possibly three or four, depending on what solution is decided on.

The brown water incidents, while not completely unheard of, have dramatically increased since the PUC’s switchover to free chlorine in the PUC’s system in October 2011, in accordance with provincial regulations. 

Unidirectional flushing of water mains by the PUC to rid the water mains of sediment, improper and unauthorized use of fire hydrants and construction may all lead to brown water incidents. 

Sault resident Mark Brown, a vocal critic of the PUC regarding discoloured water, was in attendance along with a handful of other members of the public at Wednesday’s meeting at the PUC offices on Second Line.

Brown made an appeal to the Board (which was not an official part of Wednesday’s agenda) to put an end to the brown water problem.

The Board thanked Brown for his input and welcomed him to make a presentation (to be included as an official agenda item) at a future Board meeting. 

Meanwhile, the Board approved the PUC’s 2014 operating budget.

PUC Vice President of Finance Terry Greco reported that the average residential PUC customer should see a 1.3 percent decrease for electricity costs every month, with a $2.95 increase for water per month.

The PUC’s working budget for electricity is $11.8 million, and its working budget for water is $13 million.

The price of water will increase every year for the next several years to address the cost of replacing Sault Ste. Marie’s aging water mains. 

Water main replacement projects for 2014 will take place on a portion of Queen Street near the old SAH site, St. Andrews Terrace, London Street, March Street and Forrest Avenue.

In another topic discussed Wednesday, it was recalled that a panel recommended the amalgamation of Ontario’s 70 public utility companies into eight to 12 “mega utilities” as a cost-cutting strategy.

The Ontario government responded that any amalgamated activities by the province’s utility companies be voluntary.

Parrella told SooToday.com that a group, including the Sault PUC, North Bay Hydro, Greater Sudbury Hydro and other utility companies in Cochrane/Iroquois Falls, Sarnia, Newmarket, St. Thomas and Niagara-on-the-Lake have banded together to form a Customer First Initiative to find cost-cutting measures.

Parrella told us the group of eight is working together to implement cost-cutting measures in such areas as purchasing of certain materials and equipment, maintenance of meters, asset management, software package purchasing and energy conservation measures. 

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Christina216 12/11/2013 10:30:05 PM Report

+35.40/year for water (smh)
JustMe1234567 12/11/2013 10:38:34 PM Report

"$2.95 increase for water per month"

(1.3 percent decrease for electricity costs)

"The price of water will increase every year for the next several years"


Merry Christmas to you too PUC! Ho ho ho
eug22 12/11/2013 11:24:27 PM Report

May take 2-3 years lol, buddy start working and get on the phones and do something whether it's a small fix. I am sick of people just sitting around and not doing anything....we have problems with our mains yes you guys at pic should work night and day to fix this. Unreal

Parella, there's a job for you at the call center. They are hiring.
Rocker_F 12/11/2013 11:38:27 PM Report

OMG...what the heck am I supposed to do now? That $3 is going to cut into my Timmy's budget. Two less coffees a month. And for what...to fix ancient pipes? Oh the oppression!!!
BTW...water doesn't seem to be hurting business at Timmy's. Maybe I'll join Mark and stay off the class action list.
JustMe1234567 12/12/2013 12:31:13 AM Report

last I checked we live on the largest fresh water lake in the world.
And they've ruined our historically delicious tasting water in under two years. Ruined it.
I had this kind of water when I lived in southern ontario, it's downright embarrassing that the water I would drink without hesitation I wouldn't touch now, I won't even let my pets drink it.

Rocker F - let me guess you work for the PUC and/or dpn't like Timmies coffee?
Dead End Kid 12/12/2013 5:21:08 AM Report

An amalgamation of the utility companies to create twelve mega utilities companies as a cost cutting strategy. It will probably result in a raise for their board of directors and not likely a savings for the tax payer, Sorry,I don't trust them.
Sam C 12/12/2013 7:17:11 AM Report

Just Me... as I understand, we only derive 40% of our water from L Superior. The rest comes from a number of wells.

Its been said before: the quality of the water is in no way compromised.

As well, water is one of the most affordable commodities... 1000 litres (1 cubic metre) costs a mere 50�.
SuzyyQ 12/12/2013 8:21:44 AM Report

@ Sam C., can you please define 50&#65533 ???????
Rocker_F 12/12/2013 9:03:38 AM Report

JustMe...nope, I don't get the pleasure of working in the castle. I work at the plant. My opinion is based on having an IQ greater than my shoe size (rare on these boards - you excluded I'm sure). Do a little reading, get some facts. It's not rocket science. Otherwise, go to Lake Superior and get a bucket of "sweet Superior" water...it's free!!!
As for Timmy's, not my favorite but the bad water hasn't hurt their business.
Why is it that any support of PUC implies you work there? I also support the Habs but I don't work for them. I support our government but don't have a government job.
bruno-b 12/12/2013 9:12:18 AM Report

I would like to remind the PUC that the east end from Shannon road east ,the water mains are in the area of 40 to 60 years old,the downtown and west end is well over 100 year old pipe, CAST IRON pipe does not rust as Dominic calls it IRON pipe I don't think he knows the difference. All the directional flushing is not working and never will work,this is a total waste of time and money,this is the PUC way to satisfy the people .Also to blame this problem on a fire hydrant is rediculos This is incompitance at it's best,PUC is a joke!!!
AnnieP 12/12/2013 9:38:01 AM Report

It will take 2 years or possibly 3 or 4 to fix this problem??? You might see a lot of folks moving out of the east end! What about a temporary solution. Can't see putting up with this for that long. PUC...why weren't the pipes flushed regularly years ago? You caused this problem...you fix it NOW!
Kevin5069 12/12/2013 9:42:18 AM Report

An increase of $3/mo for water???

I guess incompetence comes at a premium.
That or Parrella needs to donate more $$$�s to his charities
Christina216 12/12/2013 10:02:59 AM Report

$3/ month is a lot for people in SSM..thats one less dozen eggs, loaf of bread, carton of milk... some people sacrifice enough every month just to have PUC. It may only be 2 less Timmies a month for you but for others it's less food for them..
damzull1 12/12/2013 10:08:51 AM Report

PUC you sure have made a bad name for yourself now your on everyones shit list, now we know what your costumers mean to you with this existing water problems and you will be treated the you treat your customers, i think all the ones that were victims of this brown water problem should be compensated for all there hardship with this dissaterist water problem
Forsaken502 12/12/2013 10:51:49 AM Report

Let's make this absoutly clear, NOT ALL OF THE PUC'S CUSTOMERS ARE PISSED OFF!!!

Some of you seriously need to educate yourself.


They had to change the way they treated water to reduce the amount of lead. That wasn't their choice, they were forced to do so by the province.

They had two choices.

Either add more chemcials to the water which is the more expensive of the two options in both operating expenses and maintenance. This type of treatment is BY FAR the minority in develeoped nations. Also, IT WASN'T GUARENTEED TO NOT DISTURB SEDIMENT.

The second option was too use less chemicals. Remove the ammonia and reduce the amout of chlorine. This was cheaper both in operating and maintenance expenses and also safer for the general public and the employees who have to handle these chemicals. There was no indication that this would disturb sediments in the pipe any more than the previous system.

SO if the PUC came to us, their customers, before they changed the system and asked the following question:

"Do you guys want us to add MORE chemicals which will be more expensive and require higher fee increases, or LESS chemicals which will be safer and cheaper?"

How would you have answered that question? I can pretty much guess what the majority would have selected. Again, there was no evidence or indication that the free chlorine method would cause the brown water issues. And there is no guarentee that the other option would NOT cause brown water issues. They were told by the government to reduce the lead. The chose the obvious and best option given the information they had at the time and are currently implementing procedures to eliminate the issues caused by the change.

And no, I do not work for the PUC
zedicus 12/12/2013 11:03:18 AM Report

when is the former ontario hydro debt gonna be paid off? we have paid billions over the last 20 years. how much debt did they leave us to pay for? and our kids ???? when are they gonna stop raking us for their mistakes ????????? or does the PUC see that as a cash cow?
bbcat 12/12/2013 11:12:07 AM Report

but i bet some relative does forsaken
kamen 12/12/2013 11:40:03 AM Report

I am not upset per say with PUC I am upset with the water quality...this free chlorine is not working out, and maybe it is time to switch back to our old ways of cleaning the water. This water has been devastating as far as smell, taste, and colour. I can clearly see that it is harmful to my skin, I can't imagine what it is doing to my insides...my skin has never been drier, my hair feels like hay, and my eczema is flaring up far more than it ever has. I never had to lotion my skin 5 times a day just to keep it from itching and rashing out. I get out of the shower and I feel itchy all over. I wonder if I am not allergic to this free chlorine. The water never bothered me before, and now ever since the change, I can't go a day without scratching myself raw....it's just awful.....as for this increase in water costs....why??? to replace old watermains? I would rather the electricity costs go up and water costs go down. If I am going to be forced to live my life scratching and in pain all the time from this water, I would at least like to not be broke because of it too....
Koss 12/12/2013 11:45:16 AM Report

okay, everyone in the city gets is water distributed from the PUC. Please respond with AYE, if you have ever encountered brown water in the last year either in your house or somewhere else. I haven't seen it. I'm not saying there hasn't been problems, it just seems that it's a relatively small issue in size and the PUC is making logical decisions to reduce the problems.
Truck 12/12/2013 11:50:18 AM Report

Foresaken...

I can copy and paste their press releases too!! Yes not all are affected!....does that dimish the views of the people who are affected??
Rocker_F 12/12/2013 12:20:45 PM Report

Christina...with all due respect, I doubt the majority of people in the Sault will have to give up a carton of eggs for this. Not to mention I'm sure the $3 increase in water is less than the cell phone increase or cable increase. But those are essential, right? Take comfort though...nobody seems to acknowledge the 1.3% monthly decrease in electricity cost. Shhhh let's not discuss that.
OMG zedicus, you should be the poster boy for ignorance. Ont. Hydro debt doesn't go to the PUC any more than the sewer charge or electricity cost do. PUC collects it for othe parties not for themselves. Do you have a clue how your bill works or do you just pay it and bitch?!?! Educate yourself rather than spouting off and proving your ignorance. Wow...
xyz123 12/12/2013 12:29:57 PM Report

finally there are some people who actually understand this situation like foresaken and RockerF. Many people, the less vocal majority, support the PUC efforts. I do live in the east end and I have had two very short term odour issues and 2 short term brown water issues in the past 2 years. But I have had brown water in years past when a water main broke, etc. Overall, short term issues for long term benefits.
bruno-b 12/12/2013 12:38:59 PM Report

I am now spending $40.00 a month on bottled water plus $200.00 for a water cooler/ dispenser making the total $700.00 for drinking water !!! Make my day PUC and cut my water off ,it is not even suitable for bathing and my toilet always have a dirty ring around the bowl.I used to buy bottled water in Mexico now I have to buy drinking water in Ontario. This is a sad day in Sault Ste Marie!!!!
Christina216 12/12/2013 1:25:47 PM Report

you dont think so? im sorry. i will have to disagree with that. today people are having a hard enough time paying their PUC bill as it is. ask your neighbor living on canada pension what they think about this increase in water and decrease in electricity.
zedicus 12/12/2013 1:41:03 PM Report

rocker do you have to throw insults around? i asked a few questions. i did not post it for you to insult me. no i dont know exactly how my bill works. which is why i asked. most ppl dont know. i guess we all cant be as smart as you. or as ignorant
Christina216 12/12/2013 2:08:24 PM Report

what is the ontario hydro debt at? does anyone know? this is just an estimate as im not sure what everyones charged /month for debt repayment..i was charged $3.60. so lets say thats the charge for everyone. that would be 108,000/ month for 30,000 homes which equals 1,296,000/year.
Rocker_F 12/12/2013 11:07:12 PM Report

I don't know zedicus. When you post a statement like,"when are they gonna stop raking us for their mistakes ????????? or does the PUC see that as a cash cow?" That's not inquisitiveness or politeness...did ya really need almost a dozen question marks in that quote? Or should I say?????????
Look, whatever, if that is how you communicate then maybe I have no clue how to interpret you.
Point is Ont. Hydro debt isn't PUC, sewer isn't, cost of power isn't. Don't quote me but I think the actual PUC take (depending on your usage) is around 25%-35%. The rest goes to others. I'm no genius...I just got pissed off at my huge bill and started asking questions (without the rude ???????? at the end - they tend to imply hostility).
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Note: Comments that appear on the site are not the opinion of SooToday.com. Keep discussions civil and on topic. Refrain from obscenity and don't post anything that your grandmother would be ashamed to read. Those who do not abide by these guidelines will have their membership revoked without notice. If you see an abusive post, please click the link beside the post to report it.
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