Sault Ste. Marie PUC
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Water Quality Improvement Project

BACKGROUND

In 2011, as a result of new provincial regulations requiring PUC to control lead in drinking water, the PUC modified the city’s water treatment process. The old method using Chloramine was replaced with the more commonly used Chlorine method, also known as “Free Chlorine.” The Free Chlorine option was chosen for two reasons; the first being Free Chlorine meant fewer chemicals are added to the water during the treatment process. By switching to Free Chlorine we were able to reduce the amount of chlorine added to our city’s drinking water by 30%. Moreover, we were also able to completely eliminate the 16 tonnes of ammonia added to the water each year with the old Chloramine process.

The second reason we selected the Free Chlorine option is that it was the most viable way at the time to meet changing provincial regulations. Selecting the Free Chlorine method allowed us to potentially satisfy the new provincial regulations without incurring substantial increased cost to our customers had we chosen any other option. While the change to Free Chlorine continued to produce safe drinking water, some customers continue to experience objectionable taste or odour and discoloured water (i.e. red or brown water).

The water produced from the city’s five treatment sources (four wells and Lake Superior) all have different composition (e.g. different mineral, organic and pH levels) which, when mixing together in the water system in the presence of chlorine, can contribute to objectionable tastes and odours in some areas of the city. The Lorna Wells, located in the east end of the city, are the most different of the five sources and contribute the most to the potential for taste and odour issues. That particular water composition coupled with the wide pH variation in the distribution system in the presence of chlorine cause negative water quality issues, such as brown or discolored water, and objectionable taste or odour. In addition, the taste and odour of free chlorine itself can be more easily detected by some people than other forms of chlorine used to disinfect drinking water.

ADDRESSING THE PROBLEM

In 2013, recognizing the water quality issues affecting our customers were unacceptable, we commissioned a comprehensive study to research, investigate and recommend treatment options to address the water quality issues currently experienced in Sault Ste. Marie. In September 2013 we assembled a Steering Committee to provide public input and consultation to the study. We have now concluded that study and would like to present our quality improvement strategy for improving Sault Ste. Marie’s drinking water quality. Based on the findings of the study, we are moving forward with the Preferred Water Quality Improvement Strategy as follows.

Preferred Water Quality Improvement Strategy (2 stage Process)

Stage 1:  2014

  • Remove the Lorna Wells from day-to-day service by mid-2014 (wells remain available for peak demand needs)
  • Implement recommended advanced treatment methods to harmonize pH levels and improve corrosion control across the distribution system by year-end
  • Assess the potential to increase capacity at the Shannon and Steelton well sites by adding a second well at each site
  • Assess the potential for increasing production at the water treatment plant
  • Continuously monitor and evaluate consumer satisfaction with the new advanced treatment methods

Stage 2:  2015 - 2017

  • Complete processes to bring additional capacity on-line at Shannon and Steelton (i.e. Class EA, design, approvals, and construction)
  • If water quality still hasn’t reached desired levels, begin and complete processes to implement UV primary and chloramine secondary disinfection
  • Initiate and complete processes to provide additional capacity at the water treatment plant
  • Permanently abandon the Lorna wells

What This Means for our Customers

The total projected cost to implement the complete strategy is approximately $6.7 million. Since Sault Ste. Marie’s water system is funded only by the users of the system - our PUC customers, implementation of the full Water Quality Improvement Strategy will mean a temporary increase of approximately $2.70 a month for each customer over a period of 10 years.

Project Status Updates
Encouraging Results From 2016 East End Water Quality Survey
(At last night’s Water Commission meeting, Commissioners were presented with the results of the most recent east end telephone survey. )
Water Quality Survey Sees Positive Trends In Wards 1 & 2
(At Wednesday’s PUC Board meeting Ipsos-Reid presented the results of the most recent customer satisfaction survey conducted last November, 2015. )
PUC Monthly Activity Update
(In keeping with its ongoing commitment to improve public communication, the PUC has modified the format and content of the monthly Water Quality Improvement Project (Project) Updates. Moving forward these Monthly Activity Updates will provide the public with status reports on a variety of major projects on both the electric and water sides of the utility.)
April Update: Water Quality Improvement Project
(The PUC would like to inform customers that the final step in commissioning the newly installed soda ash system at the water treatment plant has been completed.)
March Update: Water Quality Improvement Project
(Implementation of the new blended phosphate and carbon dioxide treatment systems have been completed for all active water production sites across the city. )
February Update: Water Quality Improvement Project
(The PUC would like to advise the public that the staged implementation of the new blended phosphate and carbon dioxide treatment systems have been completed for all active water production sites across the city. Implementation of the final advanced treatment method, Sodium Carbonate (soda ash) is well in progress and will be completed by mid-March.)
January Update: Water Quality Improvement Project
(The PUC would like to advise the public that the staged implementation of the advanced treatment methods as described in December’s Water Quality Improvement Project Update will begin January 26, 2015. The implementation process for all sites will run through to the end of February.)
December Update: Water Quality Improvement Project
(The PUC is pleased to report that construction at the well sites for Stage 1 of the Water Quality Improvement Project (the Project) announced February 3rd, 2014 is complete. )
November Update: Water Quality Improvement Project
(The PUC is pleased to report that the Water Quality Improvement Project (the Project) announced February 3rd, 2014 continues on schedule. )
October Update: Water Quality Improvement Project
(The PUC is pleased to report that the Water Quality Improvement Project (the Project) announced February 3rd, 2014 continues on schedule. The month of October saw the Project achieve yet another milestone – the receipt of the Ministry of the Environment Technical Approval Permit.)
September Update: Water Quality Improvement Project
(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.)
August Update: Water Quality Improvement Project
(The PUC is pleased to report that the Water Quality Improvement Project announced February 3rd, 2014 continues on schedule. The month of August saw the Project surpass two important milestones.)
No Surprises In Sault Water Quality Survey Results
(One thousand Sault Ste. Marie residents participated in an Ipsos Reid survey in May and made it clear that improvements must be made in the taste, odour and colour of the city's drinking water.)
July Update: Water Quality Improvement Project
(The PUC is pleased to report that the Water Quality Improvement Project announced February 3rd, 2014 continues on schedule.)
June Update: Water Quality Improvement Project
(In February PUC announced its comprehensive Water Quality Improvement Project to improve Sault Ste. Marie’s drinking water quality. The PUC is pleased to announce that implementation of the improvements continues on schedule.)
May Status Update: Water Quality Improvement Project
(Keeping with its commitment to provide customers with timely updates on the ongoing Water Quality Improvement Project, Sault Ste. Marie PUC is pleased to report that the Project is proceeding on schedule.)
April Status Update: Water Quality Improvement Project
(PUC customers will be asked to provide valuable feedback as part of the new Water Quality Improvement Project that is already in progress.)
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