Some residents in Wallaceburg were concerned yesterday (March 26) when the water coming out of their taps smelled like bleach.
The local Public Utilities Commission (PUC) addressed those concerns with the Sydenham Current, and explained there was nothing to be worried about.
In an e-mail sent to the Current, Robin Dudley, area manager of the PUC, said the smell people noticed was extra chlorine.
“The water has been a little more turbid due to the melt which caused the operators to need to increase the chlorine slightly but the chlorine was decreased to normal levels yesterday so any chlorine smell will decrease as well,” Dudley said.
Mario Murro, senior operator for the PUC North, said they need to add extra chlorine to clean up the turbid or “dirty water” as a result of the run-off.
“Turbidity acts as a shield to pathogens, it hides the pathogens… it is hiding the viruses, the chloroforms in the water, so to make sure we get a good kill, we turn up the chlorine and that ensures the safety of the water,” Murro said.
He added this time of year the PUC is forced to treat some Sydenham River water.
“Our intake is situated on the Chanel Ecarte,” he said. “This time of year because of the added run-off, Chanel Ecarte is attached to the Sydenham River through Running Creek. Normally the Chanel Ecarte runs into the Sydenham River. When the Sydenham River rises, Running Creek runs backwards, so it’s actually the Sydenham River running backwards in Chanel Ecarte and it happens to be about a kilometere upstream of our intake.
“So this time of year when we have heavy rain events, or a melt like we’ve been having in the past few weeks, we’re actually treating partial Sydenham water. That is why we’re having the added turbidity. We know that it is Sydenham River water because it is usually warmer than the Chanel Ecarte in the spring time. We’ll see our temperature rise at our pumping station.”
Murro said the water you can see over top of the river banks near Wilkesport, off the Kimball Road, is water that is flowing back into the Chanel Ecarte.
“That is the water that ends up coming down the North branch,” he said. “Basically it is too much water for the North branch of the Sydenham River to handle. When it meets Running Creek, it takes the easiest route… because the Chanel Ecarte is lower than the Sydenham basin, it flows towards the Chanel Ecarte at that point.”
Murru said the smell people may notice this time of year, is the chlorine in the water reacting to nitrogen, which comes into the water from farmer’s fields.
“When chlorine mixes with nitrogen, it cause a chloramine, and that also increases the smell of the water,” Murro said. “That’s what you are getting now is that chloramine smell. The farmers will spread manure or fertilizer to the ground in the fall, this is actually adding nitrogen to the ground. So the ground freezes, then it snows on it… and then when the melt happens, because there are no roots in the ground in the winter time, when the fields start running off they end up pulling dirt in the ditches, that is why the ditches are all brown. This dirt is rich in nitrogen, and this is what washes into the streams.”
“Especially into the Sydenham River basin where you have all that farm land running off into it… and then when it runs into the Chanel Ecarte, which isn’t normally rich in nitrogen, the treating of the Sydenham River water because it is rich in nitrogen, mixes with the chlorine and that is why you get the smell,” Murro said.
He added there are no safety concerns to the public and the tap water in Wallaceburg is good and safe to drink.