By Trevor Busch
Foul taste and unpleasant odor have plagued the Town of Taber’s water system in recent weeks, and vocal citizens haven’t given the municipality a free pass.
On Aug. 10, the town posted an initial statement to its Facebook page in reaction to multiple posts from residents, explaining that hot weather had precipitated an algae bloom in the town’s water system, impacting colour, taste and smell.
“It is safe to drink and use, and there is no concern for public health,” reads an excerpT. “Our crews are actively trying to alleviate the odor and taste and will continue to do so.”
At town council’s Aug. 17 meeting, Coun. Carly Firth requested an update on the issue from the Public Works Department.
“I know there have been some comments about the taste and odor of our drinking water. I’m just wondering if the Public Works Department had any updates on when we can expect to see an improvement?”
Public works director Gary Scherer responded to the inquiry pointing out the town had installed some new equipment that should help rectify the water problem.
“With regards to the odor and issues we’re having from the water, we basically installed a new chemical treatment system, the potassium permanganate injection system, which will help alleviate the rotten egg smell you’re smelling. It takes time to get through the distribution system, so our distribution staff are currently flushing hydrants — really flushing all those odors away — but it will take a few days for that system to work into it and clean up those water issues.”
Coun. Garth Bekkering wanted to know if high temperatures and other factors in southern Alberta have combined to make 2020 an anomaly with regard to water quality.
“Isn’t this a perfect storm, regarding hot weather, no fresh water from TID (Taber Irrigation District) because their system is being cleansed…this is fairly rare, correct?”
Scherer reported the TID’s system has been heavily impacted by algae issues in 2020, and this has a corresponding affect on water flow throughout the town’s system which can create the kinds of issues being experienced in Taber.
“Every year we get algae growth within our water, within the irrigation systems. This year is exceptionally bad, especially for TID, they’ve been putting algaecides in continuously, so therefore we can’t draw out of their canal into our water system, so it’s not circulating. So actually we’re adding more algaecides, they’re adding more algaecides, but really it all comes down to hot weather, humidity, is creating the perfect environment for algae to grow.”
Following the Aug. 17 council meeting, the town issued another statement regarding water quality on Aug. 19.
“Crews recently installed a new potassium permanganate system that will help further alleviate the taste/colour/odor citizens are experiencing. Potassium permanganate is a common substance used in water treatment that controls odor and taste. As we have a very large volume of water to treat, it will still take time for the smell and taste to be removed. To help speed this process, our crews are also flushing hydrants to get rid of large amounts of water at a time to help flush the entire system. We remind our residents that the water continues to be safe to drink and use. Our water operators also continue to conduct multiple tests a week (as per Alberta law), with those tests being sent to both provincial and independent labs. To date, all results have come back ‘absent,’ meaning that the water continues to meet Alberta Environment’s regulations for public potable water. We appreciate the public’s patience as we continue to work through our large water supply and work to quickly get our water back to its normal taste and smell.”