Chesterville residents angry about brown water

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Photo courtesy of Craig Plath

by Brandon Mayer

Some Chesterville residents are voicing their concerns over the frequent presence of brown-coloured tap water from the village’s municipal water system.

So called “brown water”, or “coloured water”, is a normal indication of sediment being cleared from water mains when the municipality flushes water lines twice yearly, once in the spring and once in the fall.

The sediment builds up over time on the inside of the pipes and is released during flushing when fire hydrants are opened, causing a rapid flow of water that breaks the sediment loose into the water. The coloured water is supposed to be temporary, with residents advised to simply run their cold water taps until their water runs clear.

Another time when coloured water is to be expected is when a fire requires the use of a town fire hydrant, as this causes a similar rapid-flow situation, as if the lines were being flushed. Again, this condition should be temporary, and it is unclear what would cause coloured water to persist for longer periods of time.

Some Chesterville locals took their frustrations to social media on August 3, where one unhappy resident’s rant on the What’s Up, Chesterville? Facebook page generated over 40 comments from similarly-peeved Chesterville water customers.

Some residents were angered by laundry being stained by the coloured water and others went as far as to demand refunds on their township water bill.

Given that water connections in the municipality are metered, one resident questioned whether the township should foot the bill when the water has to be run in order to flush the lines in one’s home.

Among the affected residents is Tracy Casselman who noticed a gradual decline in the quality of Chesterville’s water over a period of two decades living in two different Chesterville homes.

When Tracy first started noticing the brown water happening more frequently, she was told by the Ontario Clean Water Agency (OCWA) – which manages the water system – to run her water for an hour to solve the problem. It worked, but only temporarily. Soon the problem was occurring every few days instead of every few weeks.

“The problem is now three weeks in a row to varying degrees,” Tracy told the Times, referring to the coloured water problem she is currently facing. One of Tracy’s concerns is the waste of both water and money from frequently having to flush her water lines to make the water run clear.

Tracy has been in touch with both the OCWA and the township with no success and she feels that concerns about the water from many Chesterville residents online are never addressed. “I would love to take a glass of brown water and hand it over to the mayor and say now you drink it!” she told the Times.

Tracy is not alone in her concerns. Resident Debbie Dowie also shared her concerns with the Times, specifically her frustrations with laundry being ruined with brown water stains and with having to frequently remove brown residue from her kettle.

“Our bedding looks like someone has poured coffee over it,” she told the Times. When asked what she thought about other residents demanding refunds on their water bills, Debbie agreed stating that either a reduced water bill or compensation for ruined laundry items would be fair.

One resident online was actively encouraging others to avoid paying their bills so that the township would be forced to do something about the frequent water quality issues.
Not all residents in Chesterville have the same issues with coloured water. A resident who asked not to be named told the Times that she has only had the coloured water issue “a few times” but that she does have concerns about the taste of the water and is considering buying a water cooler.

Chesterville’s entire water supply comes from two side by side groundwater wells west of the village. The water is disinfected with sodium hypochlorite before entering the distribution system.

The publicly available annual drinking water system report for 2020 released by OCWA on the Township of North Dundas website showed no adverse water quality incidents for the reporting year for either Chesterville or Winchester.

After being contacted by the North Dundas Times, the Township issued the following statement.

Statement from the Township of North Dundas regarding reports of coloured water in Chesterville.

The Township of North Dundas and the Ontario Clean Water Agency (OCWA) have been working to reduce the occurrence of coloured water affecting some residents within the township.

An action plan was put in place with the goal of reducing the incidences of coloured water in Chesterville’s drinking water system. This plan includes performing maintenance to one of the supply wells, cleaning the transmission pipeline from the well site to the reservoir, and additional cleaning of the reservoir.

Chesterville’s water supply is fed by groundwater wells, which typically contain a high concentration of dissolved minerals. These minerals, such as calcium, magnesium, and iron, form deposits which can be disturbed when high volumes of water move through the system.

This as well as such events as watermain breaks, fire suppression activities, and hydrant flushing, can result in brown, yellow, or red coloured water being observed in the system.

Although this water is not aesthetically pleasing, it is not dangerous to drink. The water in Chesterville is tested regularly and meets the provincial drinking water regulations set out by the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks.

Due to the nature of Chesterville’s water system, coloured water occurrences are likely to continue, although the township and OCWA are working to reduce the apparent increase in frequency.

Anyone with questions or concerns is encouraged to contact the township or OCWA directly.
Township of North Dundas: 613-774-2105. OCWA: 613-448-3098.

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