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Water Today Title June 29, 2022

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Asvisory of the Day



Badger, Newfoundland and Labrador recently saw the end of a story that began on September 6, 2012. A four-and-a-half-year Boil Water Advisory was lifted by the province's Department of Environment and Climate Change (ECC) on March 16th. The town of seven-hundred and four residents, eighty-nine less than at the issue date, was under the notice for ECC code E1 or not having "a free chlorine residual of at least 0.3 mg/l".

The ECC tracks water issues quite thoroughly, as of March 31, 2016 of the 222 active advisories on that date 77 or 35% had to do with "chlorine residual issues".Why are free chlorine residuals so important fro drinking water systems? Why was the lack of a significant level of it enough to place a town under a boil notice in for more than four years?

According to Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) technical document on chlorine disinfection in drinking water systems, chlorine "is the most commonly used disinfectant in the world for treating drinking water". The type of chlorine used in a particular town or municipality differs quite a bit and is dependent on "cost, availability, equipment maintenance, and ease of application."

Chlorine is used in both primary and secondary treatment and calcium hypochlorite is the "most commonly used" in Canada.

According to ECCC document, chlorine is introduced into the water at the treatment plant with the "primary objective to achieve the necessary microbial inactivation." The secondary use of the oxidant and the chlorine residuals provide benefits to the safety of the drinking water. Chlorine residuals "can limit the growth of biofilm within the distribution system" and any "rapid drop in disinfectant residual may provide an immediate indication of treatment process malfunction".

There is no standard minimum level of chlorine residuals in for Canadian drinking, minimum standards are set by the provinces and territories. A document published by The World Health Organization (WHO) says an optimum level "is in the range of 0.3 to 0.5 mg/l." Newfoundland and Labrador fall within the WHO minimum range.

BWAs are quite common and regular in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador for many different reasons. According to ECC data, between the fiscal years of 2000-01 and 2015-16 the province generally has between 200 and 250 advisories. During that sixteen year period, only three years were above 250 (2000-01 to 2002-03), of which the first two years were above 300.

There are currently 194 active boil water advisories in Newfoundland and Labrador, referring to the ECC summary from March 17, 2017. Thirty-one of these are for the same reason as the town of Badger. The province has less active advisories than at the same time last year, and the percentage of E1 issues has dropped significantly as well, down to 16%. Newfoundland seems to have addressed chlorine issues Badger and across the province, but it and long-term water advisories still remain.

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