White Rock’s plans to use chloramine to disinfect its water supply – officially announced this week – prompted plenty of questions, and a few concerns, from city council.
In a report presented by director of engineering and municipal operations Greg St. Louis Monday, council was told that chloramination – a mix of chlorine and ammonia – is the preferred disinfection option, as it will reduce the staining of plumbing fixtures that would result from the high manganese levels in the water combining with chlorine alone.
St. Louis pointed out that while chloramine – as well as chlorine – poses risks to aquatic life, he said the city has “operational procedures” in place to neutralize the chemicals before they are released into the environment.
Included in St. Louis’ report was a letter from Fraser Health stating that while the health authority has no preferred method of secondary treatment, officials agreed that chloramination would be “an acceptable secondary disinfectant.”
News that the city was zeroing in on chloramination has been met with criticism by residents, who have written to Peace Arch News about “unacceptable health and environmental threats” of adding the chemicals to the water supply, concerns that were echoed by some of council Monday.
Coun. Helen Fathers questioned the risk of using chloramine “for esthetic purposes” and asked St. Louis if there would be an option to switch back to chlorine only once the water had been treated for the high level of manganese, a project expected to be completed by the end of 2018.
St. Louis said “hypothetically” the city could easily make the switch – as it would be a matter of discontinuing the addition of ammonia.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen in the future, but depending on what level you’re able to reduce the manganese to, that would determine whether or not you would go to just straight chlorine in the future,” St. Louis said.
Coun. David Chesney said the thought of disinfecting with chloramine “personally scares me”. He asked why White Rock would go that route when neighbouring cities treat their water with chlorine only.
St. Louis explained that Metro’s water supply is from surface water.
“They don’t have the same issues as we do using ground water,” St. Louis said.
Coun. Grant Meyer reiterated that disinfecting the water has come at the order of Fraser Health, after E. coli caused by bird droppings was found in the water supply in August 2010, forcing a 12-day boil-water advisory.
“We didn’t have any kind of treatment for decades and we were all very proud,” Meyer said. “That being said… Fraser Health is the expert on that.”
A city news release issued Tuesday morning said chloramine treatment would begin as early as next month.