Sault Ste. Marie PUC
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September Update: Water Quality Improvement Project
Posted: Oct 03, 2014

The PUC is pleased to report that the Water Quality Improvement Project announced February 3rd, 2014 continues on schedule. The month of September saw the Project meet yet another milestone – awarding the tender for the construction and installation of the advanced treatment methods.

In early September, after reviewing the received tenders, Cecchetto and Sons Ltd. were selected as the successful contractor.  With the tender process now concluded, work can begin on the construction and installation of the advanced treatment methods for Sault Ste. Marie’s drinking water system. Once the construction is completed (anticipated by year-end), and the new systems are fully operational and working as expected, PUC customers should experience noticeable improvements in the colour, taste and odour of their water.

Bringing the advanced treatment methods online will mark the long awaited conclusion of Stage 1 of the Project. This will mark the culmination of more than 15 months of work that began in late September 2013 with the formation of a Steering Committee. The purpose of the Committee was to engage with stakeholders and identify the best possible solution to the current water quality concerns. The Steering Committee was made up of:

  • 3 City Councillors,
  • Members of the public,
  • Ministry Of The Environment officials,
  • Algoma Public Health officials,
  • Engineering consultants, and PUC staff.

The Committee undertook the process of reviewing the comprehensive engineering study conducted by subject experts that researched, investigated, and recommended treatment options that would address the water quality issues. Under the guidance and oversight of the Committee, the preferred Water Quality Improvement Strategy was selected. Implementation of the Strategy will ensure Sault Ste. Marie’s drinking water system will continue to be in compliance with regulatory requirements and that the water delivered to customers will be aesthetically acceptable with respect to taste, odour, and colour.

On February 3rd, 2014, during a City Council meeting, PUC staff presented the Steering Committee’s preferred strategy for resolving the city’s water quality concerns. That Strategy outlined a two-stage process and the complete Strategy can be found on the PUC website.

Stage 1 has two steps; the first was to remove the Lorna wells from active service, which was done May 26, 2014. These wells were removed from service because they produced water with higher amounts of chloride, manganese and iron than the remaining four sources of water. This unique composition played a major role in creating discoloured water, taste and odour. Removing this water source will, over the long-term, help stabilize the makeup of the water produced from the remaining four sources of water (3 well sites and Lake Superior).

The second step of Stage 1 involves incorporating two additional drinking water treatment methods to the existing processes. These methods will resolve two key concerns that affect water quality; pH variation and corrosion control. Both of the new methods are well-proven techniques that are commonly used in drinking water systems around the world. The new treatment methods will adjust the pH imbalances between the remaining sources of water, and control the internal corrosion of iron and concrete pipes. These treatments will reduce both the occurrence of discoloured water and the amount of lead that may be contained in the water at a consumer’s tap. The construction required to add these new treatments is expected to be completed by this year-end.

 Soda ash (sodium carbonate) will be added to the treatment process at the Water Treatment Plant to raise the pH level of the water produced there to match the pH level of the water produced at the Goulais and Steelton wells. Carbon dioxide will be introduced at the Shannon well to lower the pH of the water, also to the same level as the Goulais and Steelton wells. Once complete, this process will harmonize the pH levels across the city and will help resolve taste and odour concerns.

 Corrosion control will be achieved by adding a corrosion inhibitor (blended phosphates) to each water source’s treatment process. This corrosion inhibitor will help reduce occurrences of discoloured water as it protects all parts of the distribution system against internal corrosion. The corrosion inhibitor will also reduce the tendency of lead to leach from lead pipes, lead solder and brass fixtures in people’s homes; this will help reduce the amount of lead in the water at the customer’s tap.

Soda ash, phosphates and carbon dioxide are commonly added to drinking water by water utilities around the world. While they impart no direct taste, odour or colour to drinking water, adding them at very low concentrations can help improve water quality at the tap. Carbon dioxide is used in carbonated beverages. Soda ash is very similar to everyday baking soda and is a common food additive, used in many foods such as chocolate milk, baked goods, beer and wine. Phosphates are another class of food additives that are also added to many familiar foods, including cereals, coffee and tea, flour, coconut milk and many more.

Earlier this spring, as part of the Water Quality Improvement Project, the PUC hired Ipsos Reid to conduct a Customer Satisfaction Survey. The purpose of the survey was to establish the baseline benchmark from which to measure improvements in water quality as the Project continues to be implemented. The results of this survey were presented to Council in August 2014. The complete survey and results can be found on the PUC website.

A second Customer Satisfaction Survey will be conducted, probably in late 2015 once the new treatment processes are stabilized and working properly, in order to measure the amount of improvement in water quality. The survey results in conjunction with all other available information will be used to help determine whether it will be necessary to move ahead with Stage 2 of the Water Quality Improvement Strategy.

Customers looking for more information on the Project are encouraged to visit the PUC website; www.ssmpuc.com or call Customer Service at 705-759-6522 Monday through Friday (9 a.m.-4:30 p.m.). The PUC is committed to keeping its customers informed on the progress of this important Project with these regular monthly updates. 

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