White Rock water is more than measuring up to current health standards, according to a report to White Rock council from city utilities manager Dr. Saad Jasim.
In a verbal and written report, presented at the June 10 regular meeting, Jasim said the city’s new water treatment facility – substantially funded by an $11.79 million federal and provincial grant – is now in full operation after extensive testing.
And while he said some procedures are still undergoing fine-tuning to correct minor deficiencies, tests are showing the system is well within Health Canada standards for acceptable levels of naturally-occurring arsenic and manganese in the drinking water supply.
Original parameters of concern said Jasim, were that arsenic not exceed a maximum allowable concentration (MAC) of 0.01 mg per litre, and that manganese not exceed an aesthetic objective (AO) of 0.05 mg per litre.
Data from 2015 and 2016 showed that arsenic exceeded these limits “a few times,” Jasim said, while with manganese, “there was almost continuous excedence.”
Jasim said objectives set for the city water treatment plant were to limit arsenic to less than 0.002 mg per litre for 95 per cent of operation and less than 0.005 for five per cent of operation; while limiting manganese to less than 0.02 mg per litre.
“We have all the data up-to-date on the (city’s) website on a weekly basis,” he said.
“It shows that we are meeting and exceeding the requirements for the design objectives of the plant.”
Jasim, who has been on staff since 2016 – and formerly headed the Walkerton Clean Water Centre in Ontario that addressed water problems in that community following the infamous E. coli outbreak in 2000 – noted that study has shown presence of the elements in the White Rock system fluctuates during the year, with more leaching taking place during the winter months.
Jasim also paid tribute to the city’s operators who have been “working around the clock” for the last couple of months to perfect the water-treatment process.
“As most people know, I was not a believer in this process at all,” Coun. Scott Kristjanson told Jasim.
“You have done remarkably well and I now totally (owe you) gratitude for cleaning up the wells and cleaning up our water. It’s just phenomenal results, so kudos to you and the entire engineering team and staff.
“If (residents) do have any concerns, if they’re still drinking bottled water at home, by all means the city will happily test it and they can start using their taps again,” Kristjanson added.
“(We) thank you for the fantastic work that you’ve done to bring about what I think is a very pleasant result,” Mayor Darryl Walker told Jasim.
The need to limit manganese has become even more pressing since White Rock acquired the utility from Epcor in 2015 and first started to address water quality, Jasim indicated.
Health Canada began to revise its guidelines for manganese in 2016, he added, due to recent studies that show that the element, more than simply discolouring water or staining laundry and fixtures, has a potential impact on the health, particularly for infants, he said.
“There are studies that there are potential adverse health effects on the central nervous system, on children especially, and particularly when the brain is under development,” he said.
Canadian guidelines issued on May 10 of this year establish a MAC of 0.12 mg. per litre and a new lower AO of 0.02 mg. per litre. These are more stringent guidelines than those set informally by the World Health Organization (0.4 mg per litre) or those set as maximum allowable limits in the U.S. (0.3 mg per litre) and Australia (0.5 mg per litre).
After partnering with the UBC-based research and development team RES’EAU-WaterNET in 2016, White Rock developed an approach to water treatment that includes use of GreensandPlus, a black filter media that removes soluble iron, manganese, hydrogen sulfide and radium from groundwater, plus Bayoxide 33, an adsorptive media for arsenic.
Jasim said the city plant also generates its own ozone for use in oxidizing the toxic form of arsenic into non-toxic arsenate, which can then can be adsorbed, and disposed of safely, with the filtering media.
He added that the utility is continuing to try to optimize operation of the plant, while also reducing build-up of the elements in the water-distribution system, including replacing old pipes with PVC piping to reduce corrosion and the build-up of manganese.
“In the last two or three years we’ve been flushing the distribution system and we’ve seen a major improvement,” Jasim told council.
“There’s still some residue in the pipes, but it’s a fraction of what (residents) used to see before.”