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Water Today Title June 29, 2022

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On Monday, Onoway Alberta was home to a water issue that was out of the ordinary. Users of the Onoway Waterworks System found that their tap water was a bright pink in colour. According to announcements on the town's website the problem arose when Public Works began the "weekly backwash if filters [in the] Water Treatment Plant.

We spoke with Dale Krasnow, Mayor of the Town of Onoway about Monday's rose coloured incident. Krasnow informed us that the cause of the discolouration was a "valve that stuck open during the regular flushing of the filters and lines". Krasnow adds that "some potassium permanganate infiltrated the water system."

According to the National Centre for Biotechnology Information's website PubChem Compound Database, potassium permanganate "is a purplish coloured crystalline solid", hence the water colour. The water-soluble compound is non-combustible, yet it accelerates the burning of materials that are. The biotech website states that should combustible material finely divided, "the mixture may be explosive." The compound has limited use as a topical medication, and is used in water treatment processes.

The Mayor underlined the fact that "Alberta Environment and Parks was notified immediately" about the water discolouration. Krasnow added that Onoway Public Works acted quickly enough so that the situation only effected a portion if the town, the school being among the buildings not effected by the pink water. Krasnow said that "at no time was anyone's health in danger", throughout the event the water system was never turned off. To the best of the Mayor's knowledge no one in the town ingested the discoloured water, but potassium permanganate can stain skin.

The question was put to the Mayor about plans of action or prevention in the case that something similar should arise. The Mayors response was that "we are working on backup plans with other nearby municipalities." The Mayor was unable to elaborate on those plans he simply said that "they are progressing."

The likelihood of another water event happening in Onoway is low. Alberta Environment and Parks lists at least the town's last three reports as having "no drinking water concerns". In fact the Onoway Waterworks System has had "no previous water advisories". In the end, human error was ruled out, and all signs point to an equipment malfunction.

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