Aesthetic water quality and capacity concerns linger in North Dundas

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During the regularly scheduled Council meeting on March 22, North Dundas Director of Public Works Khurram Tunio reported to Council that there has been a slight rise in the amount of water quality complaints in the past year from residents served by the Township’s municipal water system. Concerns were also raised about the capacity of the system to meet the demand of water users.

In addressing Council, Director Tunio first reported on a slight increase in the number of so-called “aesthetic” water quality complaints, which rose in 2021 compared to 2020. Complaints from users of the Winchester water system remained the same at three complaints for each year, while complaints from Chesterville water customers rose from 10 in 2020 to 20 in 2021. In August, the Times reported that many Chesterville residents were complaining of brown water, a condition that usually results from iron and other sediment being loosened in water mains during peak-flow situations, such as the use of a fire hydrant.

Brown or rusty coloured water is considered an aesthetic water quality issue – although unpleasant to behold, and causing potential consequences such as the ruining of laundry, brown water is not unsafe. Residents who experience brown water are advised to simply run a cold water faucet until the water clears, but with all of North Dundas’ municipal water users on metered water connections, and with the problem occurring frequently for some users, clearing the water in this manner can be costly. Despite the aesthetic water quality issues, the 2021 report from the Ontario Clean Water Agency, which is contracted to run the North Dundas system, found no non-compliant conditions in 2021. This means that at no point was municipal water in the Township deemed unsafe to drink.

The water discussion at the March 22 Council meeting did not end with reports of aesthetic water quality complaints. Director Tunio also advised that an estimate of the combined total capacity of the Winchester and Chesterville water systems, provided at the time when the Permits to Take Water were issued, is lower than the actual capacities seen in the last few years. Director Tunio’s report stresses that this “places urgency in finding additional as well as alternate sources of Township water.” To address the capacity issue, the Township is currently undertaking a study which considers options such as adding additional wells, and connecting to the South Dundas water system via an extension.

Councillor John Thompson, who lives in Chesterville, questioned the fact that Director Tunio’s report indicated zero aesthetic water quality complaints from Chesterville residents so far in 2022, since he himself has received complaints. Council members considered that these complaints may have been made too recently to have been included in the report. While no specific action plan was discussed to address the adverse aesthetic water quality in Chesterville, it is likely that Council and Township officials are relying on more abundant and sustainable sources of water, such as the St. Lawrence River via the Township of South Dundas, to provide water with more aesthetic quality in the future.

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