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PUC presents annual report, brown water strikes again

Monday, May 26, 2014   by: Darren Taylor

Dominic Parrella, president and CEO of the Sault Ste. Marie PUC, presented the utility company’s annual report for 2013 to city council at its regular meeting Monday.

Parrella, accompanied by other PUC management officials and board members, displayed several charts to council showing the PUC is basically an efficient organization.

One of the favourable statistics shown to council indicated the average monthly residential electric bill is at $106.99, cheaper than other northern Ontario centres such as Thunder Bay, Greater Sudbury and North Bay.

Parrella also said the PUC continues to upgrade the city’s electrical infrastructure, and successfully dealt with a high number of watermain breaks throughout this past, brutal winter.

However, questions from council inevitably turned to the topic of brown water incidents in the city’s east end, another of which struck that part of the Sault Monday.

Steve Butland, Ward One councillor, told Parrella he again received a number of complaints by telephone from his constituents Monday, and asked Parrella if council and east end residents could have a timeline as to when the brown water incidents will come to an end.

“The brown water situation is not going to change soon…significant improvement will not happen until year’s end,” Parrella said.

Susan Myers, Ward Two councillor, said “people are exasperated” with the problem.

Myers said citizens have complained they are not given sufficient advance warning as to when brown water incidents, often due to PUC unidirectional flushing, may occur.

Myers said the PUC should “over-communicate” to the public, if necessary, as to when these incidents may happen.

Parrella said it is impossible to know exactly when they will occur and at which homes on specific streets.

Parrella said residents were informed in advance through the PUC website and electronic media outlets such as that the PUC’s unidirectional flushing program, part of the company’s Water Quality Improvement Project, would start Monday in the east end, and run through the summer and into the early fall.

The PUC website advises customers flushing operations will take place between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. during weekdays, and that customers within the flushing area will receive a notice at their door at least one day before flushing starts. 

However, the website states, there is a chance that during flushing activities, customers outside the immediate flushing area could experience discoloured water.

Instructions on how to deal with the brown water as best as possible are provided on the PUC website.

In February, the PUC Board of Directors approved a Preferred Strategy for Water Quality Improvement for Sault Ste. Marie’s water supply.

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.

Short-term steps in the Water Quality Improvement Project include removing the Lorna Wells from daily service (which happened Monday, Parrella told council), and adding two additional advanced treatment methods (pH harmonization and corrosion control) into the treatment and distribution systems. 

More details regarding flushing areas and schedules will be released to customers once they have been finalized, the PUC says on its website.

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.

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


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rocky312 5/27/2014 12:16:18 AM Report

People are getting tired of getting the same run around by PUC regarding the "brown water" issue. If the problem can be fixed in 2017, then it can probably be fixed now, so why not just do it, regardless of the cost. The customers are going to pay for it one way or the other whenever its done anyway. There is a very sad disregard for the customers as evidenced by the lack of promised notices, an answering machine for customer complaints which are never answered and ridiculously higher bills for extra water use without any form of compensation. (today we ran our water over 3 hours and it's still brown.) This kind of customer service would shut down any normal business.

It's shameful that a northern city has water less desirable that those in the south. Is city council really that helpless on this issue? There are councilors on the commission as well right? Perhaps there is a different kind of purging required to fix the problem.

Prrrrrrr 5/27/2014 12:20:41 AM Report

It's disgusting, we actually had to go to PUC to complain because it just so happened that their phones were out of order today! Too Much.... Twice our water went ORANGE
mallet 5/27/2014 12:41:07 AM Report

Corrosion Control?? added to the water, is this going to have any health related issues down the road for the people who drink this stuff. They are adding more junk to the water and then complain about people buying water from grocery stores, what a bunch of comics!!!
bunyak 5/27/2014 3:09:59 AM Report

Brown water this morning 5/26/2014 still brown at 3:am 5/27/2014
IB-fine 5/27/2014 3:17:11 AM Report

At the beginning of the article it stated " the average monthly residential electric bill is at $106.99," since when? Or does that not include water?

I had no idea today that the water was going to be brown again. I went to call them and couldn't get through, went to try the website and it wouldn't load as to many were trying at the same time!
How about automated calling to let us know???
Are they going to pay to replace my toilet as it's so stained on the inside I never know if it's a brown water day until I run the taps! This is after using a bleach puck(s), and regular bleach in the tank! I only replaced it less than 2 years ago and it looks like it's been there ( on the inside) to 40 years!
All this messing about with the water has to stop! What ever we had before returned! We use to have the best water in the province and now even when they aren't messing around with their "flushing the system" etc. it tastes terrible and has an odour to it.

I got a call the other day from Ipos Reid doing a survey for the PUC you can bet I gave them low scores on quality, taste and smell of the water and complaints about the outrageous prices when we make a ton of power here but the sell it all (at a loss) to the USA and we have to get our power from southern ON.

Top off giving rental hot water units and payments to a southern ON company which raised the bill from $5 a month to $15 pretty darn fast, and both companies are making a killing from us!

Quit with the positive spin press releases and get real PUC! Add in the number of complaints about prices, brown water, and distribution charges that include rental charges for the "smart meters" they made us get! We shouldn't get charged for an equipment upgrade we didn't ask for!

And CALL the residents affected by brown water instead of relying on the media to. Many seniors and low income people don't have computers or access to the sites. And again many don't have cable TV anymore to get it from the local news! Auto- calling should be standard for the areas affected by your "system upgrades"!!
NorthernOntario 5/27/2014 6:51:06 AM Report

106?! For average PUC user. Fee's alone are most of that price. Off the top of my head I think it's 45 for water/sewer and 30 for electrical. I think the PUC's pants are on fire.
Sammy1099 5/27/2014 7:00:06 AM Report

I’m on Boundary rd and when I got home at about 8:30pm, I went to change my dog’s water and it was dark brown.

I’m assuming that the $106 they quote as an average is just for electrical? I pay about $135.00 total a month, last year it was about $110.00 total. I went to the PUC website and you can get a graph of your neighbourhood average usage, by comparison I’m the lowest in my neighbourhood by far. I have central air so that may jump up to about $170 or so in the summer.

The debt retirement charge is not the PUC. The ON Liberals have been using that as their own personal slush fund, in other words it is now an extra tax.

I’m a military brat I’ve lived traveled all over Europe, Ontario and Quebec. I’ve never experienced water problems like this.

I know people will say “be glad you don’t live in a third world” etc.. Well when people in a third world start paying what we pay they can complain too. When I pay for something I expect to get it or get my dam money back. Once in a while fine, but this is getting to be a PITA. When you go get milk at the store and its sour, do you not bring it back?
AlwaysAWinner 5/27/2014 7:13:01 AM Report

>"One of the favourable statistics shown to council indicated the average monthly residential electric bill is at $106.99, cheaper than other northern Ontario centres such as Thunder Bay, Greater Sudbury and North Bay."

too bad you'll still hear people from the Soo complain about the PUC cost. doesn't matter what you tell them, they're cheap, greedy people. this town is where dreams go to die.
Mr. Poster 5/27/2014 7:23:24 AM Report

More proof that this city council is ineffective and not able to get the job done.They allowed that monument of a building o go up on Second Line...they approved it. The money spent on that building could have gone a long way towards fixing this problem NOW...not 2017.
NB113 5/27/2014 7:28:41 AM Report

I'm sure the new chemicals added to the water for PH & corrosion control are harmless otherwise they would tell us.
Frio 5/27/2014 8:17:07 AM Report

There is nothing stopping anyone from calling up the PUC and having them shut off the power and water they find so disturbing in their lives. Then you will never have to pay another PUC bill or spend another moment festering about the new PUC office on Second Line. Take care of your own water, sewage and power needs. You know that with all your intelligence and skills you can do it far cheaper and better and can live without the constant aggravation and stress caused by their inadequate, inept service. Move to the country, drill your own well, provide your own outhouse or septic system, hook up your own solar/wind/generator power system and enjoy being responsible for only yourself and have the never ending bliss and freedom from the PUC.
Truck 5/27/2014 8:28:28 AM Report


You're missing the point...and being a tad over the top dramatic. If you do not have any issues then there really there is no need for you to comment! A large section of customers are. Would you happily pay for brown water?
Mr. Poster 5/27/2014 8:32:18 AM Report

Frio...dumbest post of the morning.
dirtybeard 5/27/2014 8:41:07 AM Report

They fail to mention in the article that the planned flushing was to occur only in the Manitou Park and actually occurred in other east end areas.

This is the map of the area that was to be flushed:
MYPOINT 5/27/2014 8:43:25 AM Report

I am getting sick and tired of all of the BS coming out of the mouths of those in charge at the PUC. and the USELESS council members we have both on council but especially those two councillors who are supposedly on the board at the PUC.

This council supported the building of that magnificent PUC building on 2nd Line and yet we, the citizens of this wonderful city, have had to put up with DIRTY, STINKY, HORRIBLE TASTING water for way too long now!!

It is absolutely pointless to call the PUC unless you are retired and can spend ten hours waiting to get through on their so-called 'hotline' and it is also absolutely useless to call the city to try and get any answers.

I therefore think that it is time to show both the city and the PUC that we have had enough. We should collectively just STOP paying our PUC bills until they return to us the wonderful tasting, clear water that we used to have prior to them f#$@ing around with different chemicals etc. a while ago?

I know there will be some who will say that we are lucky because we have it better than some 3rd world Countries and my response to that is HORSE PUCKY!! We pay through the nose ( and it sure as hell is NOT an average of $106 + each month for my utilities) and we have the right to have clean, clear, NON dirty , NON smelly, wonderful tasting drinking water!

I wonder, Do we have to wait until someone actually dies from drinking this crap coming out of our taps before something is done to fix this ongoing problem permanently OR someone is held accountable?

I think it is time for a revolt because we keep getting the old run-around from all concerned. I sure am glad that a municipal election is coming up in the near future - at least then ALL of these current councillors will find out who is going to get the final word concerning all of their collective ineptness!

Sorry for the rant but I have had it with the BS coming from the PUC and the city reps here.

As always, your views may differ :)
IB-fine 5/27/2014 8:45:53 AM Report

Frio...... a lot of us would love to "get off the grid" but you can't dig a well in town, or have outhouses anymore.
Fine if you have land beyond the urban service line, but not in the city.
And with solar/wind electricity many can't afford that anyway.

What does that have to do with brown water we are PAYNG for that is ruining our pipes, toilets, taps and hot water tanks???
IB-fine 5/27/2014 9:18:54 AM Report

I checked out the map "dirtybeard" provided and checked out the PUC site.
Yep it says just Manitou Park should be affected by brown water. Then how come I'm on Queen St. E. right by Shannon road, where they spent all winter digging another well and until about 10 minutes ago my water was still brown?? And it tells me not to run my kidding. But the toilet changed all by itself! That's when I first noticed the change of colour yesterday! So from 8 am to 4 pm I'm not suppose to shower, cook, clean, make coffee, or use water in anyway? Ya OK! And supposedly the area affected is about 5 kms from me so I'm still suppose to take these precautions? Do I have to live in the west end not to be affected?

Going over the PUC site, informs me of electrical price increase and tells me if my bill is high to use more CFL lightbulbs, but on the other hand has a page showing a diagram of lower temps this winter and increased baseboard/electric costs due to that. I don't think changing more lightbulbs are going to affect the price of heat in the winter in anyway!

Didn't we use to elect this board? What happened to that?
seller65 5/27/2014 9:32:58 AM Report

I did NOT get any notice of flushing in my area and did not see the dark brown water until AFTER I had done a load of laundry. It took 35 minutes of running the garden hose at 5:30 p.m. to clear the sediment. No drinkable or usable water all day at my son's school either.
asp 5/27/2014 9:54:36 AM Report

PUC are the worse bull shitters, they should start taking responsibility for their action, not giving the people of this city excuses after one other. First of all take care of the brown water and next reduce our bills. Look People we paid for that NEW building. One morning I was driving by PUC and all of the trucks were pulling out of the PUC building and you know where they went to Tim Hortons. They just started their shift.
Mark E. 5/27/2014 10:01:43 AM Report

Yeah, the first thing I think about when waking up in the morning is to check the PUC website to inquire about water conditions. Not a strong response in my opinion. What do we receive for our inconvenience? We still pay for this crappy water that shows up in our taps.
My Thoughts 5/27/2014 10:22:34 AM Report

I think as a service provider and lets face it........not a cheap provider, PUC should be more accountable for the brown water fiasco. This problem has not been short-term and the east-enders have had to take the brunt of the problem. We have been told to basically "suck-it-up". I'm not sure about the rest of you but I do not want to drink brown water whether it is appropriate to drink or not. In addition to paying the same $ for water as everyone else in the city (those who have clear coloured water)I purchase clean drinking water and this is adding up. I think we (east-end) should be supplying brown drinking water for the PUC to drink maybe that will solve this problem faster?????
Frio 5/27/2014 10:33:17 AM Report

I live in the east end. I have had brown water on a few occasions including yesterday,and it looks like it has a tan again this morning.
I showered, made breakfast, coffee, brushed my teeth,all in this off coloured water now according to the latest hazard reports by posters on here, I should be expecting to get sick and die anytime soon. There are many people who live beyond the urban service line who have well and septic systems with the city boundaries. I've had wells and septic, and they cost money too, in initial cost and followup maintenance. Nothing stopping anybody from moving to an area not needing services provided by the PUC, and providing their own and having unending bliss, free from the hassles and bills from the PUC..If a little discoloured water from stirred up sediment in the city water mains or the occasional power outage is such a stressful event in your life, what are you going to do if something really serious happens? Instead of useless bitching on here, take responsibility for yourself. Have your emergency kit good for at least 72 hours with bottled water, flashlights and some spare batteries non perishable food and be prepared for the little inconveniences that may occur..Self induced stress from hating on and on about the PUC will make you sick and die long before a little discoloured water.
Mr. Keisha 5/28/2014 9:01:08 AM Report

Okay. I had and have brown water in the East end or sometimes it smells like pool water and tastes like it. However my kindergarten came home with a note saying they have brown water and that her school (Holy Cross) will be buying water coolers for all the kids attending school and it will take a day to get them. However in the mean time I am supposed to send the kids to school with ample supply of water each day? Seriously??? its okay to drink it at home but not okay to drink at school?? This is so ridiculous. I hate to be on assistance, old age or even out of work and have to deal with the water situation and have your children made to drink it cause you cant afford to buy bottled water.....
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