The District of Invermere will be conducting testing throughout the summer to try and pinpoint the cause of taste and odour issues that some residents have with the water coming out of their taps.
Engineers from Urban Systems, the company that does the work on the district’s water systems, and a representative from the provincial Interior Health Authority (IHA) attended a committee of the whole meeting on Tuesday, March 24th, at which the Urban Systems engineers unveiled a work plan to test the water during the next several months.
“Basically they outlined a work plan for the next six to eight months to do a bunch of testing to see what it is that cause the taste and odour issue,” said Invermere mayor Gerry Taft, speaking after the meeting. “One of the top priorities of council, as decided during the last municipal election campaign, was to deal with the taste and odour concerns some of the public have around the water, so that’s where this stems from. We’re following through on that.”
Taft said council members are hopeful that the engineers will be able to figure out the problem, or at least determine if it is an issue in the source supply of Invermere’s water, or if it is a problem that arises in the distribution part of the district’s water system.
In the meantime, there are plenty of anecdotal theories as to what the cause may be.
“There have been many theories for a while. One of the main ones is that there are lower levels of dissolved oxygen in the water and that creates conditions that allow organic organisms to grow. Some preliminary testing in the past showed sufficient levels of dissolved oxygen. Another theory is that some of the dead end pipes in the district’s water system would make organic compounds, if they exist, worse. Anecdotally speaking, a lot of the complaints come from certain areas of the town, which suggests the problem is specific to certain neighbourhoods,” said Taft, adding ultimately testing is necessary to get to the bottom of the issue.
“There are these theories, but we don’t know. We need to do further testing to determine that,” he said. “Is it an issue with the source water, or in the distribution system, or is it a combination? We don’t know.”
The IHA representative at the meeting clarified to council that while the district may have issue with taste and smell, the water is fine to drink.
“He made clear that from IHA’s perspective that this is purely aesthetic and that our water is totally safe. He was quite adamant that it meets all the IHA parameters,” said Taft.
Urban Systems will take samples throughout the summer as bench testing and compare it to winter testing, hopefully then drawing some conclusion as to the nature of the problem.
“Another of anecdotal theories is that if you have bad tasting water and you shake it, the problem goes away. So it could be that solving the issue is as simple as the district aerating its water. Or it could be as complicated as heavy duty filtration,” said Taft. “Hopefully we come out of this with an answer on what’s causing the problem and what it might take to fix it.”
While the council is optimistic that the issue may prove to be something the district can afford to fix with its current budget, Taft did concede that if it turns out something such as heavy duty filtration is required, then the capital cost could run into the tens of millions of dollars and annual operating costs could run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars — a price tag that district could likely not afford.
“If that’s the case we would then probably look at a solution such as giving out home filters door by door to house that have problems,” said Taft.
With the current testing work plan, councils’s main concern is determining what the problem is, and will leave deciding whether or not the district can afford the solution to future discussion.