A major landmark in the town of Chesterville – the water tower – is undergoing significant maintenance, including receiving a fresh coat of paint. The Township of North Dundas notified users of the Chesterville drinking water system several months ago that “major maintenance” would be occurring on the water tower between May and October of 2022.
The water tower was drained as part of the maintenance project, which has left the drinking water system fed entirely by the high lift pumps. Normally, treated water from source wells is pumped into the water tower, where it then feeds into the distribution system by gravity – the height of the tower provides the water pressure. With the tower offline for maintenance, water users in Chesterville have been warned to avoid drawing large quantities of water from their taps, since the system is not designed to handle peak flow demands without the help of the tower.
Last year, major complaints surfaced from many Chesterville residents about the aesthetic quality of the water provided by the town’s drinking water system. While there have not been any indications that the water is unsafe for human consumption, and the Ontario Clean Water Agency (who runs the system) has reassured residents that the water is safe, the same reassurances could not be made about the water’s appearance. For the complainants, the water was appearing from their taps with a yellow or brown colour so pronounced that it was staining laundry. Despite the concerns, a representative from the Ontario Clean Water Agency seemed to suggest that the current maintenance is not connected to the aesthetic water quality complaints. “The water tower maintenance that is taking place is routine maintenance along with some required safety upgrades,” said the spokesperson, when asked if there is a connection between the maintenance and the complaints.
The complaints last year were not the beginning of the Chesterville water system’s woes. In July of 2020, the Township notified residents of Chesterville that it was aware of high instances of coloured water throughout the system, and that a full system flush was planned for later that month to help address the issue. At that time, the coloured water was blamed on sediment buildup within the system which had become loosened,
The Chesterville water tower, wrapped for sandblasting and painting in late August. The sound of the sandblasting process was quite loud with a hope that a system flush would get rid of the sediment.
Residents of Chesterville must be on alert during the duration of the maintenance since water pressure can fluctuate when the water tower is offline. Sufficient water pressure is critical for keeping bacteria out of a municipal water system, so in instances of low pressure, residents are advised to treat the situation as though a “boil water” advisory has been issued.
The issue of water quality and capacity from the Chesterville and Winchester drinking water systems is likely to become an issue of discussion and debate between candidates as October’s municipal election draws closer.