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Sault PUC approves Water Quality Improvement Plan

Monday, February 03, 2014   by: Darren Taylor

The Sault Ste. Marie PUC Board of Directors approved a Preferred Strategy for Water Quality Improvement for Sault Ste. Marie’s tap water at a meeting held early Monday afternoon at the PUC’s office on Second Line.

The two-stage solution, ready for implementation, involves removal of the Lorna Wells (one of the Sault’s five different water sources) from day-to-day service by the end of May.

The PUC acknowledges that the introduction of chlorine (also known as free chlorine) into the community’s water October 27, 2011, in the Lorna Wells especially, has led to ongoing taste, odour and colour issues (and a great deal of public complaints, mostly from East End residents).

The use of free chlorine, particularly in the Sault’s East End, has led to unexpected, unpleasant brown water incidents whenever the buildup of sediments in that area of the City’s pipes system is disturbed.

East End wells have more iron and manganese in them, as opposed to wells in the rest of the community. 

Under the Strategy's two-stage plan, the PUC will implement treatment methods to harmonize pH (acidity) levels and improve corrosion control by the end of 2014.

Other components of Stage One include assessing of the potential to increase capacity at the Shannon and Steelton Wells by adding second wells at those sites, as well as assessing the potential for increased production at the Water Treatment Plant.

Stage Two of the PUC’s program, if necessary, will run throughout 2015 and 2016, and involve complete construction of additional wells at Shannon and Steelton.

Also, if necessary, the PUC will use UV (Ultraviolet) disinfection as its new primary disinfection method at the Sault’s other wells and use chloramine (not the currently-used free chlorine) as its secondary disinfection method if water taste, odour and colour issues continue.    

The utility will also upgrade the Water Treatment Plant for additional capacity.

The final phase of Stage Two, in 2017, will consist of complete construction of UV disinfection systems if required, complete Water Treatment Plant upgrades and the permanent abandonment of the Lorna Wells.

The cost to PUC customers?

Stage One of the PUC’s program will cost approximately $2.7 million, Stage Two will cost approximately $4 million (an approximate total of $6.7 million).

Since it is not supported by municipal or provincial taxes, the PUC states if both Stages of the Water Quality Improvement Strategy are implemented, it will mean a temporary increase of approximately $2.70 a month, or $32.40 a year for PUC customers over a period of ten years.

However, the PUC optimistically states in a report: “There is a strong possibility that, once the Lorna Wells are taken out of service and the advanced water treatment processes are put in place and stabilized, we may see such an improvement that full implementation of the Strategy may not be necessary.  This would mean a lower overall cost for the Strategy and therefore a smaller increase on water bills.”

The PUC opted to put chlorine (also referred to as free chlorine) into Sault Ste. Marie’s water supply in October 2011 due to new provincial regulations since the Walkerton tragedy and also to cut down on lead in the community’s tap water.

Free chlorine, the PUC says, consists of less chemicals and was “the most viable option at the time.”

The PUC states it will “monitor and evaluate” PUC customer satisfaction as it carries out its water quality improvement program.

The utility says the City will not run low on its water supply during implementation of the Strategy, nor will taking the Lorna Wells out of service affect water pressure in the East End of the community.

The PUC says there have been problems with the Lorna Wells since they were first used in the late 1970s, but since the introduction of free chlorine in October 2011, “the full impact of the unique composition of Lorna’s water was realized.”

Uni-directional flushing of the City’s water lines will continue throughout the Strategy’s implementation, the PUC says, stating it “is a recognized industry best practice in the provision of municipal drinking water and will continue indefinitely.”

The PUC’s Preferred Strategy for Water Quality Improvement, unveiled Monday, is the result of studies done by a Water Quality Steering Committee, formed in September 2013, which consists of current and past PUC staff, current and past local Ministry of the Environment (MOE) officials, Algoma Public Health officials, and two Sault Ste. Marie City Councillors (Steve Butland of Ward One and Susan Myers of Ward Two).

PUC President and CEO Dominic Parrella will present the Strategy to City Council at its meeting Monday evening as an information item.  

Note: Comments that appear on the site are not the opinion of If you see an abusive post, please click the link beside the post to report it.
scottstewy123 2/3/2014 2:53:18 PM Report

WOW is all I have to say. Another increase. They broke it. We pay for it
right wing 2/3/2014 3:03:19 PM Report

Read it again you obviously did not understand it or you did not really read it the first time.
"They" did not break anything.
"They" simply conformed to the provincial regulations.
Ski-Dude 2/3/2014 3:03:24 PM Report

PUC is absolutely one awesome company! Thanks for your great over-the-top service! I'll gladly give you more money...any day!
Gumby54 2/3/2014 3:03:54 PM Report

Let's see now. We made a mistake and screwed up the water. We have now after the fact fully investigated what could happen. We are now going to go back almost to the way it was before. All it's going to cost is $6.7 MILLION. Hey but that's only a TEMPORARY increase of $2.70 a month to every household. As some will say on here that is just a little bit of money. Well this little bit and every other little bit that someone spends of our money hurts us - not them. The PUC screwed this up, it should be incumbent upon them to find the money in their budget to fix the system. I know this is just a pipe dream though as the poor end user / tax payer is left holding the bag again.I would also hope that this additional increase will only affect the water portion of our bill and not the Sewage portion. I am truly hopeful that this decision is going to rectify the issues we have faced in the East End for the last few years. Only time will tell. This is sort of nice to see that we have been listened to and maybe the meetings at City Hall did have an impact. I can only live in the BLISS that we may have been heard and listened to.
Ski-Dude 2/3/2014 3:08:50 PM Report

All of this was grossly under estimated before the switch occurred. The real dollars for the switch were essentially hidden. Extremely poor execution therefore the subsequent dog and pony show.

There were alternative methods as to the one chosen by the PUC to conform to provincial regulation....may have been better...may have been worse....I'm sure there's a detailed study....
Gumby54 2/3/2014 3:08:50 PM Report

@right wing
They were already in compliance with Government regulations for water purity. The reason the process was changed was because there was a need to limit LEAD in a small % of pipes from leaching into a very small % of homes. It was decided that the new process was less likely to have lead leeching. There was little investigation of what the other issues could be. So yes they broke it and now need to see how their initial fix didn't work as hoped and will try a different method - UV as well as the old straight Chlorine injection.
KEENER 2/3/2014 3:18:05 PM Report

Let me get this straight. They messed up our water and now are going to force us to pay for the fix. Sounds like organized crime.
Gurpy 2/3/2014 3:20:49 PM Report

The only reason PUC listened is because enough people made a LOT of noise! Had we kept our mouths shut nothing, and I mean NOTHING would`ve been accomplished! You are right! We should not have to pay a dime for PUC`s mistake!
Uptown Girl 2/3/2014 3:26:09 PM Report

A year ago price increase 75% to replace water mains for next 10 years and now another increase for the next 10 years. Wonder if these increases will continue afterwards?
Gumby54 2/3/2014 3:28:07 PM Report

I agree the noise made had an influence, I was one of those that made noise - to my aldermen and to the PUC. If we don't push back we will be run over. Now we need to see how this next attempt to resolve the problem goes. Sad that it will cost us once again.
Gumby54 2/3/2014 3:31:06 PM Report

@ Uptown Girl
(Insert sarcasm) PUC said this will be a temporary fee. You don't believe them? Remember Income Tax was implemented in the 1930's as a temporary tax. Your meaning of temporary might be different than theirs.
right wing 2/3/2014 3:40:42 PM Report


You really don't have a clue what you are talking about.

"UV as well as the old straight Chlorine injection."

The straight chlorine method was what the PUC changed over to, free chlorine.
They are going back to, on a smaller scale, to the old chloramine method, chlorine and ammonia.
Your welcome.
Gumby54 2/3/2014 3:45:19 PM Report

@ right wing
Thanks, noticed that I put Chlorine instead of Chloramine after I hit the Post button. No way to change it. You are correct. My bad.
ODE 2/3/2014 3:46:59 PM Report

My water has been absolutely great for the as long as I can remember! Now because everyone with a low IQ in this city has nothing better to do then complain, my bill will be increasing as well. Maybe instead of criticizing you should be watching hooked on phonics!
right wing 2/3/2014 3:49:44 PM Report

...and Gumpy54, I would be glad to lend you my copy of the Ontario Safe Drinking Water Act if you would like to really understand the regulations.
right wing 2/3/2014 3:51:13 PM Report


You are the first one to post what is closer to the truth on here.
right wing 2/3/2014 4:01:41 PM Report

Most drinking water treatment plants in Canada use chlorine as a disinfectant and that is why they have very low turbidity build up in their potable water piping infrastructure.
Low turbidity = rarely incidences of coloured water, like the West end of the city is now experiencing.
and1 2/3/2014 4:09:48 PM Report

This is a serious breach and gross mismanagement of public trust and funds. There should be an immediate inquiry to identify those individual responsible and have them removed.

Unfortunately the money is gone and the public with end up paying for it. We must remove those responsible so it doesn't continue or happen again.
right wing 2/3/2014 4:12:23 PM Report


...and there you have it.
rcssm69 2/3/2014 5:08:42 PM Report

A little more than the cost of an extra large Timmy's!!! Woopdeedoo!!!
Tag33&1/3rd 2/3/2014 5:38:10 PM Report

Post a picture of your copy of the "Ontario Safe Drinking Water Act"
FunMan 2/3/2014 5:45:37 PM Report

If City Council stopped taking the 2.5 million dollar dividend from the PUC in order to balance the City budget then the PUC would have the funds for this project. You can't keep bleeding the PUC dry and expect them to work miracles by keeping the electrical and water systems running smoothly.
Gurpy 2/3/2014 6:09:24 PM Report

So now city council is to blame not the PUC??
murcor 2/3/2014 6:19:37 PM Report

There is no such thing as a "temporary" tax. Once implemented it is there permanently, ie personal income tax.
ducky58 2/3/2014 6:40:29 PM Report

I live in the west end never had a problem with my water in 28 years. So now I'm expected to fork out more money. We pay enough tax's now. We pay way to much for are water and sewer already. Were do we draw the line.
bbcat 2/3/2014 6:42:09 PM Report

I am glad they are finally fixing the water in east end, thank you puc
iamtc 2/3/2014 6:49:16 PM Report

All I could say about this is nestle pure life is good clean water puc should ask them for some advice
sAUCEY 2/3/2014 7:21:23 PM Report

Thank you so mcuh Mark Brown!! Everybody give this man a round of applause, now we get to pay for the next ten years!!! WTG!
If you people can;t read between the lines I am be sarcastic.

This is ridiculous. My water has been fine forever, now I have to, sorry we, have to pay for something that WE didn't want.

And don't fret folks the PUC hating posses will be complaining in about 3 months on how high our bills are, and how PUC has such terrible service becuase a drunk hit a pole and the power went out! Wait... I have an idea lets make all the infrastrucre out of titanium and plaitnum, that way its indestructible, and we will coats our lines with diamonds so the don't break under pressure and wind.. Think about the future and how it's going to cost us..Nah I want my cake and i want it now but don't want to pay for it...

Thanks a lot ya clowns!
Gurpy 2/3/2014 7:26:07 PM Report

Now it`s Mark Brown`s fault!! Should I run for cover?
Ski-Dude 2/3/2014 7:27:10 PM Report

Funniest thing I've read all day. If you people can't read between the lines I am be sarcastic.
Gurpy 2/3/2014 7:27:47 PM Report

So, you are saying that anyone who voices their opinion has a low IQ? OMG!!!!
sAUCEY 2/3/2014 7:35:41 PM Report


Im not blaming Mark brown , but when everything goes wrong with PUC he is there to complain, he leads the riot to "burn em all", now price went up and problem is solved, where is he..

And ski-dude, I think what I wrote made sense, it's not the fact that its gonna cost me an extra 35$ a year, but it never effected me so why should I pay..

scottstewy123 2/3/2014 7:51:05 PM Report

Well right wing they sure did not make it better for the east enders by changing to the new system RIGHT?
Gurpy 2/3/2014 7:54:37 PM Report

If I remember correctly, Mark Brown was one of the very few who had the guts to confront the PUC over the water problems! Your right, not everyone in the city has been affected. None of us should be paying for PUC`s screw up!
sAUCEY 2/3/2014 8:00:01 PM Report

Yes he did have stand up to them, but if I recall he said he hasn't had water issues and if there were to be a class action he wouldn't partake.. Also its not PUCS screw up, it was legislation that forced the change, not a willie nillie move by Curran and Parella.
Phaedrus 2/3/2014 8:00:25 PM Report

So are these new costs in addition to the 10% a year in price increases we are already facing?

If so, incompetence on a grand scale seems to pay very well, in these parts!
FunMan 2/3/2014 8:31:36 PM Report



If the City takes funds away from the PUC then they don't have the money to do the maintenance that needs to be done, thus the electrical breakdowns and lack of funds to fix the water problem.
sunnie 2/3/2014 9:55:03 PM Report

I live in the West end and my water taste like chlorine. The smell of the chlorine hits my nose long before it gets to my mouth, and I taste it. I swear I reminisce about swimming in pool every time I get a drink of water.
I bought a Brita water system to see if that would help and NOPE didn't work.
Now I'm pricing other water systems to see if any of them might help. I really and truly do love drinking water. I'm not fond of bottled water because of the cost to the environment in the long run and I find it hard to drink water that has an expiry date on it or sodium added to it.
As for Mark Brown, kudos to you for giving the community a voice we have been heard. Ironically I was not one of the voices. It kind of feels good to let off this little rant I just had. Have a blessed day each and every one.
Grumpish 2/3/2014 10:08:25 PM Report

We can only hope that the solution is better researched than the original decision to switch to free chlorine. The primary justification for that switch was to avoid ~ $2 million in capital costs. Now we learn that the "fix" could cost ~ $7 million. Management heads would roll in the private sector.
Mark Brown 2/4/2014 6:24:06 AM Report

Hi All,

I would like to thank the PUC Board of Directors, the PUC leadership team and staff, and the Water Quality Committee that has FINALLY identified the problem and recommended spending the money to fix the water colour, taste and smell problems that have dogged so many of the PUC customers since the beginning of the changeover to free chlorine in October of 2011.

That's what responsible companies do when their customers complain. They spend the money to fix the problem.

I agree that there should NOT be a water rate increase to pay for these $2.7 Million - $6.7 Million dollar ONE TIME expenses to fix the problem.

As many have said, the rates will not be reduced when the problem is paid for.

The best solution is the one that FunMan recommended, which is for the City to NOT COLLECT it's annual $2.5 Million dollar dividend until the ONE TIME costs are paid off. That way our water rates will not increase, but there is a problem with this solution as well.

The problem is that if the City does not collect the yearly $2.5 Million from the PUC our City Council will recommend that our taxes be increased to cover the shortfall in city revenues... our property taxes will go up instead of our water rates :(

The only way to pay for this WITHOUT our water rates going up, and WITHOUT our taxes going up is if the city does NOT collect the PUC dividend each year until the water problems are fixed AND AND AND the City uses RESERVES to make up for the lost PUC dividend revenues.

Giving up the PUC Dividend and paying for the shortfall in City revenues out of RESERVES is the only way to keep our water rates and our taxes from going up.

But that is a decision that ONLY this 2014 City Council can make.

Sincerely and Respectfully,
Mark Brown

P.S. Thanks also to Skye Burke for leading the charge and to all of you who spoke up for your right to the same quality of water that most of your neighbours are getting. Well done!!!
FunMan 2/4/2014 8:10:22 AM Report


I believe that the City is now done with it's commitment to fund the Hospital so those funds could help balance the City Budget and let PUC keep their 2.5 Million.
right wing 2/4/2014 8:32:00 AM Report


I live in the East end.
The occurrences of brown water were for the most part minimal.
Heard of any complaints lately?
I openly offered to anyone in the East end that was experiencing brown water on an ongoing basis free consulting. (I work in the water industry)
By ongoing I mean frequently as some suggested was happening, weekly three to four times a month.
None, zero took me up on it.
PUC eliminated 16 tonnes of ammonia added to our water, in my books the elimination of ammonia is an advancement.
What the PUC did wrong IMO is the following:

-underestimating the change over time and the reaction of the chlorine with the turbidity built up in the existing infrastructure.

-no plan on dealing with the public complaints. They should have responded to brown water complaints in a timely fashion. Send out a PUC representative to flush out the water at any residence that did not clear up within the day.

The free chlorine system is the best way to protect our water, period.
I am an advocate for drinking water with no chemical in it, something that is easily done once your water arrives safely to your residence.
...but I'd rather drink water with just chlorine in it than chlorine and ammonia (and for some folks a dash of lead) but hey you could not smell chloramine so it's all good, right, our water was the best right.

Mark Brown 2/4/2014 5:04:25 PM Report

Hi FunMan,

Sorry for the delayed response...I just got home from work.

You are very well informed, and correct about the $29.5 Million dollar donation we property tax payers have contributed to the building of the new Sault Area Hospital by paying $2.1 Million dollars every year for the past decade-and-a-half being finished this year with a final payment of $700,000.

And that means that instead of collecting $2.1 Million from us taxpayers this year the city should only be collecting $700,000.

Sadly, last night city staff presented a preliminary budget that would see the city CONTINUE TO COLLECT $2.1 Million dollars from us every year until the end of time even though that hospital donation (tax) payment should be stopped this year.

My position on the $2.1 annual contribution to the hospital is that it should be STOPPED THIS YEAR because that is what was originally promised.

That money belongs to us, FunMan, not the city.

Unfortunately, city staff don't agree that the money belongs to us, and they have already laid out a plan for how the additional $1.4 Million that will be collected this year will be used, and I imagine there will be a whole host of ideas how the $2.1 Million can be used in 2015, and 2016, and 2017, and...

If city council decides to continue to collect our $2.1 hospital donation money every year even after we have paid off our debt for the new hospital, then how they use our hospital donation money is something that this 2014 City Council will have to decide.

Personally I would give it back to the taxpayers because it's their money.

And I still think that this 2014 City Council should pay for the PUC water fix out of RESERVES because reserves are typically used for ONE TIME COSTS like this water quality fix, and that way both our taxes and our water rates WON'T RISE.

Another very good point about the Hospital Donation tax ending this year though FunMan. Some would probably agree with you that the extra money city staff have planned for City Council to continue collect should be used to pay for the PUC water fix.

big bass 2/4/2014 6:16:22 PM Report

Good water is the main necessity of life. PUC should do whatever it takes to give us the best quality ever. This will lessen the amount of plastic we put into the environment. Many people buy drinking water, and a few dollars a month is worth it. The sooner it is fixed the better, so no studies are needed half way through the process. Just fix it. Glad there is a solution. I have been buying filters to improve the water because I can't even eat vegetables boiled in the tap water.
FunMan 2/4/2014 6:33:02 PM Report


Silly me, I was expecting a tax decrease this year as the hospital payments were complete.
Like you said council already has it spent .
It would have been nice to consult the taxpayers.
I hope that the Sault Ratepayers group asks our Council why a tax increase with hospital reduction as well as assessment increases. It appears that Council 's spending is out if control.
Beej 2/5/2014 11:08:01 AM Report

good4now 2/10/2014 1:28:11 PM Report


I regret posting this long after the article was buried, but I had a hard time locating this info again. I hope to repost it again, when the opportunity arises.

I am sad to learn that our water might again contain additional additives. While the intended ingredients are usually safe, often the principle ingredients are contaminated with industrial byproducts.

I submit as evidence a report on the contamination of the common water additive Fluoride:


Fluoridated Water—Another Hidden Source of Radioactive Polonium

You can also consume polonium by drinking fluoridated water, courtesy of the fluorosilicic acid used. While pharmaceutical grade fluoride is a harmful-enough drug, this is not the type of fluoride being added to drinking water. If it was, at least then it would be a pure, uncontaminated form.

Rather the fluoride that is typically used to fluoridate local water supplies is a frequently contaminated chemical byproduct created during the phosphate fertilizer manufacturing process. It’s a concentrated, highly toxic chemical riddled with hazardous impurities, making it extremely expensive to safely dispose of when not sold for profit as a water additive.

Uranium and radium are two known carcinogens found in fluorosilicic acid used for water fluoridation, and polonium-210 is one of two decay products of uranium. Furthermore, polonium decays into stable lead-206, which also has significant health risks—especially in children—and research has indeed shown that drinking fluoridated water increases lead absorption in your body.

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