Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Timmins needs to improve water quality system

Timmins is taking action to ensure that what happened in Walkerton eight years ago is not likely to ever happen in this city.
The Walkerton Water Tragedy saw a failure of standards in the water treatment plant in that community, which led to an outbreak of e-coli that contaminated the local water system. Seven people died. Thousands got sick.
Timmins has until January 2010 to have an operational plan in place to make sure the process of taking water from the river, treating the water and then sending it out to every household in the city, meets the highest possible standards. The city’s water treatment plant is in the process of a multi-million dollar upgrade.
The quality management operation plan was outlined to city council this week by Michelle Albert of Genivar, a municipal engineering contracting firm.
There are 21 essential elements, or standards, that must be met. Albert says Timmins needs work on all 21 elements, but most are minimal.
She says the city needs significant improvements in three areas; documentation and records control, risk assessment outcomes and emergency management planning.
Albert told council the plan will take thousands of hours of training and staff preparation over the next 18 months.
She recommended that a quality control person be hired for the long term and that consultants be hired for the short term to ensure that all the water quality standards are met on time.
Councillor Gary Scripnick said he was confident with the water quality in Timmins, but said “the complaint I hear more often is that you know we are having higher and higher levels of chlorine. People can smell it.”
Scripnick suggested that because Timmins residents have to “endure” higher chlorine levels in their tap water, it might explain why it appears so many people are drinking bottled water.
Scripnick asked if it was possible, at some point in the future, that the chlorine smell in the drinking water would be gone.
Ken MacDonnell, the city’s project engineer assigned to water improvement, said “it is a bookwork exercise,” but the whole point of a quality management system is to ensure consistency in how things are done.
Without saying whether more or less chlorine would be evident, MacDonnell said the city would need to consistently follow whatever standards are required for water treatment.
Mayor Tom Laughren said quality control is a continuous process, not something that is done one or two days before the quality management audit.
“That could be one of the goals that we set,” the mayor suggested. “ You know at the end of this you don’t want to have that chlorine smell in the water.”

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