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.