Icky-looking water woes prompt more complaints

Discoloured yellow and brown water continues to spout out of taps and into washing machines across Ucluelet and local angst is increasing as the district searches for solutions.

“We’ve now contracted an engineer specializing in water to come and start looking specifically at where the problem areas are, whether they’re localized or whether it’s a broader issue and then what are the solutions,” Ucluelet Mayor Bill Irving told the Westerly News.

He said the contractor’s recommendations will direct the district’s next steps but added a thorough cleaning is in order regardless.

“We are planning on more aggressive cleaning of the (water) pipes because we’ve got dozens of kilometres of pipes that have been there for decades and have never been cleaned,” he said. “We’re going to be pursuing that regardless of what the engineer says.” Irving is wary the engineer may come back with expensive solutions in an economic climate where provincial dollars are hard to come by but said the district will press on.

“The reality for both council members and residents is that it’s better to know what the issue is and try to find a solution than it is to try to avoid the issue,” he said. “We’re going to continue to press on and continue to upgrade, infrastructure grants or not.”

Sue Brown of Snug Harbour Inn recently gave up on the district’s efforts and purchased a water filtration system for her Inn.

Brown was part of a delegation of Marine Drive residents who brought jars of brown water to council during Ucluelet’s January 14 regular meeting and urged the district to address the issue.

She said the district’s communication since that meeting has been lacking.

“They have never gotten back to us at any point of time,” she said.

“My feeling now, after all this time, is nothing has been done in the town other than they’ve been flushing…Obviously flushing isn’t working, how could flushing work if there’s a problem with something seeping into the line?” Brown said her new water filter system was installed on July 17 and within just four days the sediment filter had gone from white to brown.

“It was disgusting,” she said. “We have no idea what it’s going to look like after a month.

There’s a huge sediment problem.”

She said she is considering sending the receipt for the new filter system, and the plumbing work to install it, to the district as she believes the district should be footing the bill.

Accommodation providers like Brown have been vocal about the damage dirty water is doing to their linens during laundry cycles and the complaints being raised both online and to staff from guests who are turned off by what’s coming out of their taps.

Irving said the district office is absolutely focused on the issue and is working in earnest to fix the problem.

“When concerns were expressed we started water testing on a more regular basis and flushing on a more regular basis to identify what the problem was and try to clean it up,” he said.

“We also found that, because of the fish plants (and) the increase in tourist activity, the flow through the pipes is much higher than normal and when you have that higher flow it starts to clean the pipes as well so, I think, that’s bringing up more stuff.”

Irving said the district frequently tests its water to ensure its safe to drink but acknowledged the discolouration does not look refreshing.

“People don’t want to use the dirty water and I certainly understand and agree with that,” he said. “We always make sure it’s safe and then the second part is to clean up any material that’s floating in it.”

He encourages residents experiencing discoloured water to notify the district.

“When people have a concern they should let us know and not just sit on it and wait until they get frustrated, and mad, because it helps us pinpoint areas that may be a problem and work on solutions more systematically,” he said.

He asks residents to note the time discoloured water occurred and said this information will help district staff pin things down.

“Because it’s somewhat random, it’s different places in the community, that kind of information from locals is very useful; it helps us then test the water on either side of that area to see what may be the reason for that particular contamination in that area,” he said.

reporter@westerlynews.ca