HARD WATER PROVING TO BE BIG PROBLEM FOR CITY OF SAINT JOHN, NB
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By Ronan O'Doherty
Residents in Saint John's west end are increasingly frustrated at the damage caused to their plumbing since a new water system was put in place last autumn.
The water, which is drawn from the South Bay Wellfield, is thought to be higher in mineral content, or harder, than the previous source and is wreaking havoc on the plumbing systems of residents who have copper pipes running through their homes.
Leaks and costly repair bills have ensued, leaving residents in search of answers. As of Feb 6, the Saint John Water says that they have received over 100 calls about the issue.
The city has responded by teaming up with the University of Dalhousie and CBCL Engineering to conduct a study of the affected homes to get to the bottom of the issue.
It is expected that the study will take a month or two and all parties involved are remiss to go into great detail of what they expect to find at the moment.
Saint John's website says, "As the water travels through the ground, it is naturally filtered through sedimentary rock and calcium-bearing minerals, which increases its level of hardness (concentration of minerals)."
CBCL informed this reporter that they have signed a Non-Disclosure Agreement with the city to hold off discussing the study until it is completed.
Some customers have been advised to add a water softening device into their system but they don't come cheap, with the least expensive units on offer running in the $500 range. Add that to the fee of a plumber who installs it and you're looking at a fairly hefty price tag.
For those looking to save a few bucks and perform the installation themselves, there was a $65 fee for a plumbing permit that was required from city hall prior to installation of water softeners. Councillor Greg Norton of Ward 1 forwarded a motion to alleviate it on the February 12 however, and it was passed 8-1.
It's not only the pipes that are being affected by the hard water. At least 200 water heaters leased to customers in the west end by Saint John Energy have broken down since the water was switched. Once again, these aren't cheap fixes and seeing as it is the dead of winter right now, the last thing customers want to suffer through is a freezing night.
Saint Jonn Energy tweeted, "We have collaborated with @cityofsaintjohn to expand our loan program to provide optional financing for residents who wish to purchase and install a water softener," which makes sense for them as it would protect their assets.
Saint John Mayor, Don Darling, met with disgruntled citizens on Thursday of last week to listen to their concerns and let them release some steam but few solutions were provided and no compensation was promised.
It should be noted that the water being provided to the west end customers does meet all provincial and federal drinking water standards, so there are no advisories that have been issued.
That being said, the new water system remains a black eye for the city while the plumbing issues continue.
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