Snug Harbour Inn owner Sue Brown hoped to take advantage of a rainy Monday morning to get some laundry done but wound up frantically trying to save a new supply of towels from being stained.
“Before the water had completely even filled up the tub I could see the yellow and I could see the stains on them,” she said of the new white towels she had to evacuate from her washing machine.
“This yellow stuff within the last year, it’s been a constant,” she said. “This is what my guests have to drink.”
The high-end inn runs about $400 a night in the summer and was recently named one of the top 20 bed and breakfasts in Canada by Trip Advisor for the second year in a row. It is not the sort of place tourists travel to expecting to drink yellow water and sleep on stained sheets.
Brown was part of a delegation of Marine Drive residents who brought jars of yellow, brown and black water to Ucluelet’s Jan. 14 regular meeting to convey to district officials how serious their water problem is.
Brown said she is “absolutely not” satisfied with the district’s efforts to address the issue since the Jan. 14 meeting.
“If this is any evidence of how much it’s improved I don’t think they’re really doing a whole lot of difference,” she said.
She had thought Monday would be a good day for laundry because the district conducts flushing on Tuesday nights but the towels she removed from her washing machine told a different story.
“This is a brand new towel -look at this,” she said holding up a significantly yellowed towel.
She said she can handwash the stains out of her linens if she catches them in time but this is a problematic and time-consuming process.
“If it hits the dryer, it’s shot, it’s burnt in for life,” she said. “The problem is I haven’t got time every time we do laundry to check everything and wash it by hand afterwards. It’s insane.”
She said towels run about $10-$15 each, so each spoiled laundry load adds up to significant financial ramifications.
Ucluelet’s superintendent of public works Warren Cannon said the district has consistently flushed a hydrant located about 30 feet from the “location of concern” every Tuesday night.
“Water mains in the area were flushed using a procedure called unidirectional flushing (and) weekly water samples have been taken at the location of concern and another local residence in the same area,” Cannon said.
The problem is not exclusive to the Snug Harbour Inn. Adele Larkin of Black Rock Oceanfront Resort said the toney resort – also located on Marine Drive -loses thousands of dollars worth of stained linens each year.
“We donate tons of bed linens and towels and all those kinds of things because they’re no longer white, they’re now a ‘dingy orange’ colour,” she said. “We just can’t use them anymore in the hotel, because they’re so badly discoloured and damaged.”
She added that the resort’s air conditioning units get clogged up at a higher than average rate because of the water.
“We’ve been dealing with brown water here for a long time,” she said. “This is not a new problem.”
She suggested the discoloured water could also be affecting the experiences of guests.
“It was a bit disheartening this morning to arrive to a message one of our guests had posted, she’d stayed here for three days enjoyed her stay but it took her three times to fill the bathtub and every time she filled it the water came through the same brown colour,” she said.
“The way she summarized it was this is not what she thinks of when she’s staying at a luxury property, this is not what she bargained for, and I totally agree with her. I would be pretty disheartened as well if I’m coming here and I’m spending x amount of dollars and I go and turn on the tap and the water comes out brown.”
Larkin said the resort’s staff do their best to warn guests if flushing is being done but that knowing when flushing is taking place is sometimes as unclear as the water.
“We used to get a heads up when there was going to be a major flushing going on, we haven’t gotten that heads up in a while, but we used to,” she said. “If we don’t know that’s happening and we’ve got a load that’s on full wash, by the time we’ve pulled them out those towels are done, they’re ruined.”
She said she has issues with the water in her own home on Peninsula Road and that while she was not a member of the Jan. 15 delegation because of a scheduling conflict, she fully support’s the delegation’s efforts.
Discoloured water is not flowing solely to Marine
Drive as Jodeyne Grills of Nurture Day Spa on Harbour Drive is also frustrated by the amount of linens she has to replace.
Grills said she was not a member of the Jan. 14 delegation and has not been proactive on the water issue but plans to become more involved.
“The reason I need to be proactive is because I need to know how it can be fixed,” she said. “I understand that things happen but I want to know how to prevent it from happening again because when the linens come out stained there’s not really a whole lot you can do to get the staining out and I’ve tried and tried… It’s very costly, obviously.”
She said she often does not know when her water will be discoloured and that it does not just happen when flushing is being done.
“I have a business and I can’t continue having to fork out money for new linens and I also am aware of the reputation for being a resort community,” she said. “The last thing I’m going to say to my guest is ‘sorry about the dirty sheets but this is just how our water is;’ no part of me is going to say that, because it doesn’t look good for anyone.”