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Drinking water safe, but distribution system needs work

North Bay residents will have “great” treated water and a “world class” treatment facility once the new filtration plant is built, Peter Bullock, the city’s manager of environmental services, told the Engineering and Works Committee Monday night.
North Bay residents will have “great” treated water and a “world class” treatment facility once the new filtration plant is built, Peter Bullock, the city’s manager of environmental services, told the Engineering and Works Committee Monday night.

But, Bullock said, North Bay’s water distribution system, like most others in the province, has suffered from years of neglect, "and there are a lot of improvements that can be made.”

Great treated water
Bullock was delivering the 2003 Drinking Water System Summary report to the committee.

He said the city delivers “safe water to our customers,” but just “reacted” in the past as far the distribution system went.

“When something broke we just went and fixed it,” Bullock said.

“We’re going to have really great treated water and we’re going to have a world class treatment facility, but I don’t know if we can deliver that to all of our consumers just because of neglect of our distribution system.”

Need to move it higher
If he had to rate the distribution system, Bullock said he would give it “a C.”

“We need to move it higher. I don’t think we can get to an A really fast and it would take years to graduate to that, but if we have the objective of continual improvement, that every year we’re a little better than we were last year, then that’s the way to get to the A level.”

The distribution system is showing its age, Bullock said, and, of late, residents have started complaining about coloured water.

“The pipes are old and they’ve never been properly cleaned out, so we need to start replacing and we need to start doing the cleaning so we don’t get those types of complaints,” Bullock said.

“And when we get the filtration system we’re hoping to start whittling away at the distribution system to try to match the front end treatment.”


Make it better
Bullock emphasized North Bay’s drinking water, which is already being disinfected with chlorine and a UV system, is safe.

“But we can make it better, and really it’s trying to move to toward a Cadillac system, and I believe the new provincial drinking water regulations will force you into having a top notch system,” Bullock said.

“It will be a 20 or 30 year strategy to do the programs and do the upgrades. It’s a massive job and it’s going to take a long time.”

Non-compliance problems
There were some problems in 2003, Bullock stated. One was in the area of non-compliance with provincial regulations dealing with training.

The city didn't meet the 40 hours of training "for all water distribution operators."

"The Ministry of the Environment has recently inspected the city's water system and the city is awaiting the inspection report that will identify that operator-training hours have not been met and further orders are expected," Bullock's report states.

The city also didn't comply with the regulations when two bacteriological samples were taken last March "without recording a chlorine residual."

The MOE inspection, Bullock's report states, found three distribution locations with low chlorine residuals at Dree/Gibson Avenue, Aviation Avenue and Progress Court.
Permanent flushing has been established at the first two locations, and the same will happen for Progress Court this year.

Absolutely necessary
Mayor Vic Fedeli said the city will spend about $90 million over the next five years on infrastructure upgrades, including $36 million for the filtration system.

“We’ll be spending a lot of money on something that’s absolutely necessary and that’s why we need to push so hard for the federal government to give us part of the gas tax,” Fedeli said.

Construction on the filtration system, though, won’t begin until the federal government provides its $12 million share, Fedeli said.

He expects to hear from Nipissing MP Bob Wood about the status of that money this week.

In related news Bullock said the odd-even day system of yard watering will be reimplemented for June, July and August.
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