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Saint John to add phosphate to water in attempt to curb copper pipe leaks

Click to play video: 'West Saint John water to receive phosphate in attempt to stop leaking copper pipes' West Saint John water to receive phosphate in attempt to stop leaking copper pipes
WATCH: The City of Saint John is hoping to fix an issue that has cost some residents and businesses thousands of dollars in plumbing bills. Common council has voted to add a chemical to the well water. As Andrew Cromwell reports, this comes after almost 200 reports of leaking copper pipes – Feb 21, 2018

The City of Saint John is going to try to plug a leak that has cost many of the city’s west-side residents thousands of dollars in plumbing bills.

The Common Council has voted to accept a recommendation to add phosphate to the well water that services more than 5,000 city water customers.

So far, more than 180 reports of leaking copper pipes have been made in about a month’s time.

Officials say adding phosphate to surface water is not uncommon but rather unique for well water.

“This is a different approach but we feel it can mitigate any further issues,” said Saint John Water Commissioner Brent McGovern.

READ MORE: Saint John to study possible causes of water pipe leaks

Engineering consultants believe this approach, which has been approved by the Department of Health, is the way to go for now.

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“The phosphate will more or less attach itself to the copper surface and form a stable material that will inhibit any dissolution or solubility or release of the copper into the bulk water,” said Mike Chaulk of CNCL Engineering.

The phosphate option — which will cost the city about $46,000 for the system, and $90,000 for a one-year supply of the substance — will be used as an investigation continues into why the copper pipes started to leak after the switch to groundwater.

The west side of the city was previously serviced with water from Spruce Lake over a period of about 100 years. The well draws “hard” water but provides a significant improvement in drinking water safety, according to McGovern.

Chaulk says there are a couple of ideas behind the leaking pipes, but nothing definitive.

“There’s some belief that it’s related to the transition from the old Spruce Lake water to the current water and there’s some belief that it may just be the fact that it’s the groundwater itself.”

WATCH: City says Saint John Clean Safe Drinking Water Project on time and on budget at halfway point

Click to play video: 'City says Saint John Clean Safe Drinking Water Project on time and on budget at half-way point' City says Saint John Clean Safe Drinking Water Project on time and on budget at half-way point
City says Saint John Clean Safe Drinking Water Project on time and on budget at half-way point – Jun 22, 2017

Former mayor Ivan Court, a 40-year west-side resident, has had to deal with seven leaks so far.

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He says adding phosphate to the water is a good measure, but wonders why it took so long.

“They should have done that in the first place,” said Court.

“There should have been a due diligence. Someone should have known what the impact was going to be.”

McGovern says it was part of the discussion. “Consideration was given to it and the water quality parameters were such that there weren’t concerns with it.”

The best opportunity for the public to get the answers they’re looking for will be here at St Mark’s United Church on Dexter Drive.

There will be a pair of open houses on Thursday from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. and from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. and the panel of experts will be there to take questions from the public.

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