Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions by Category

Account Information Management Water Quality Acquisition

Contact for Water Issues

 

Introduction of chlorine
Addressing
Naturally Occuring 

Arsenic and Manganese
How the City Blends its water

Unidirectional Flushing

Program

     

Water Quality/Public Health

Is our water safe?

  • Yes. The health and wellbeing of the residents of White Rock has been, and will always be, a top priority for the City.  This is one of the many reasons the City purchased the water utility from a private company, and took over its operations. Other reasons were so that the City could:
    • have control over the operations, rates and decisions related to the City’s water quality;
    • immediately take steps to formulate a plan to build arsenic and manganese treatment plants;
    • bring in in-house experts and consultants who have extensive experience enhancing a City’s water quality; and, 
    • be eligible for provincial and federal infrastructure grants not available to private companies. 

The City is under mandate by the Fraser Health Authority to implement a secondary form of water disinfection. Has this been done?

  • In October 2016, the City began its phased approach to adding secondary disinfection to the City's water system, as mandated and closely monitored by the Fraser Health Authority, to treat the drinking water with an acceptable secondary treatment on or before February 1, 2017 as a condition of our operating permit from Fraser Health. 

How will you guarantee a safe supply of water so we don’t have a boil water advisory again?

  • The Total Water Quality Management Plan (TWQMP) will provide secondary disinfection to the water supply and upgrade critical system infrastructure ensuring consistent and reliable service of high-quality drinking water.
  • The TWQMP was required based on the recommendations of the 2011 Boil Water Notice Report when the water utility was under private ownership.
  • As a result of the report, the Fraser Health Authority had directed the previous owners of the water utility that a chlorination system had to be in place by June 2016. On October 30, 2015, the City of White Rock acquired the water utility from a private company. In 2016, the City of White Rock asked the Fraser Health Authority for an extension in regards to introducing a secondary treatment so that the City could conduct some testing prior to full implementation of a secondary treatment. The Fraser Health Authority approved this and the City has until February 1, 2017 to implement a secondary disinfection treatment. 
  • As part of the TWQMP, upgrades to improve the overall system safety and reliability are being addressed.

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How the City Blends its Water

How is the City able to blend its water?  

Currently, the City can blend its water in two ways: 1) in the reservoir and 2) in the distribution system.

Reserviors

  • The Meklin reservoir has two wells that pump water into the reservoir, where the water is blended and sent into distribution by one pipe. The Oxford reservoir has three wells that pump water into the reservoir, where the water is blended and sent into distribution by one pipe.

  • This was not previously possible as the Oxford reservoir was not constructed. Now that the Oxford reservoir is constructed, the water from those wells can be mixed.

  • With the addition of the two new reservoirs, the wells at each reservoir can be adjusted to pump at different flow rates into the reservoir where the water is blended. For example, at the Merklin reservoir there are two well pumps that pump into the large reservoir and the water is mixed.

  • Our Certified Water Operators have the ability to control each well pump. This includes turning a pump off and pumping from the other well, for example, running Well A at 20% and Well B at 80%. So the majority of the water in the reservoir is from Well B.

Distribution System

  • The system operates using pumps, which create a pressure in the distribution system.

  • The Certified Water Operators have the ability to set the pressure at wells 4, 5, and at the reservoirs. Depending on water demand and other factors, water will be provided into the distribution system at different locations, where it encounters water from another source and is mixed. For example, if the pressure set point at the Oxford reservoir is higher than well No. 4 and 5 and the Merklin reservoir, and the demand is low, then the Oxford water could be providing water to the majority of the system and will mix with the minimal amount of water being provided by the other sources.  


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Who do I call if there is an issue with my water?

  • The City of White Rock wants to hear all questions and concerns. Please direct these to City staff depending on the questions. Operations will be happy to take your call on water (604.541.2181) or if you have a query about billing, please call Finance (604.541.2100).

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Introduction of Chlorine to Water System

Why do I smell or taste chlorine in my water? 

As part of the ongoing implementation of chlorination, which the City shared with the public earlier in the year, the Operations Team introduced a low dosage of chlorine (0.5mg/L) on October 4, 2016. Secondary disinfection was required to meet the February 1, 2017 deadline implemented by Fraser Health Authority.

With this phased approach, staff are able to monitor any changes to the City’s water quality. Samples of the water are collected and are monitored by Fraser Health Authority (FHA).  

As staff sample and monitor the City’s water quality, they will adjust the dosage over the next several months, in accordance with the Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality (GCDWQ). 

Why does my water look cloudy or discoloured? 

The City’s water contains naturally occurring manganese. When chlorine and manganese mix, the esthetics of the water may become cloudy. Although the water esthetics may change, the City’s water is still safe to drink. 

What do I do if I have cloudy or discoloured water? 

If you are experiencing cloudy or discoloured water:

  • remove aerators (screens) from taps
  • turn on your cold water on the tap located nearest your property's water meter/shut off and let it run for a minimum of 10 minutes or until it runs clear
  • place the aerators back on the ta;s
  • you may have to do this more than once.

Should you still have cloudy or discoloured water, please call the Operations Department at 604.541.2181 or send an email to water@whiterockcity.ca.   

Is Chlorine safe to drink? 

  • Chlorine has been used to disinfect water to make it suitable for drinking for the past 100 years. (Source: Health Canada)
  • There are no risks associated with the taste and the odour of chlorine in drinking water. (Source: Health Canada)

How do I reduce the taste or smell of chlorine in my water? 

Store bought filters are an option to consider for those who find the taste and odour (or the aesthetic effects) caused by chlorine to be strong. Filters should be certified as per the NSF International/American National Standards Institute Standard 42. 

"A quicker way of reducing chlorine smell from tap water is to add fruits or vegetables such as oranges, lemons, limes and cucumbers, or to dissolve a crushed Vitamin C tablet to the water. This should remove most of the chlorine in about an hour." 
(Source: Health Canada, pg. 5)

For more information regarding filters or treatment technology, please read section, 7.2 Residential scale, from the Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality - Chlorine Guideline Technical Document (Health Canada). 

Is the City going to put chloramine in the water? 

No. The City is not adding chloramine in the water supply.

The previous owners of the water utility were implementing chloramination as they felt this method was the best option for secondary disinfection. This is because chloramine is known to reduce the negative aesthetics in the water, like cloudiness, and is a disinfection option used by many municipalities. However, because the City acquired the water utility, it was able to be transparent and share with the public that it was recommending chloramination.

Due to public feedback, City Council chose to implement chlorination instead of chloramination for treatment of the water.

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Addressing Naturally Occurring Arsenic and Manganese

How is the City going to address naturally occurring arsenic and manganese in its water supply? 

Our water supply contains naturally occurring arsenic and manganese, which is why the City is working towards building arsenic and manganese treatment plants. 

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Management/Operations

How will the City operate the water system?

  • The City of White Rock is the sole owner and operator of this facility. The City runs the day-to-day operations and ensure the quality and safety of the water supply.
  • To do this, the City has taken some key steps to ensure it has the expertise to provide the residents of White Rock quality water. For example since taking ownership of the water utility, the City has:
    • taken immediate steps to formulate a plan to build arsenic and manganese treatment plants;
    • hired an international award winning Utilities Manager with extensive experience working with water utilities and providing award winning clean water;
    • applied for provincial and federal infrastructure grants not available to private companies to address naturally occurring arsenic and manganese in the City’s water; and is,
    • partnering with RES'EAU WaterNET, a research organization out of UBC that is able to tap into a vast network of experts nationally and internationally who can help us achieve our goals as we move towards building the arsenic and manganese treatment plants. 
  • The City will operate the treatment plants, prepare and execute capital and maintenance plans, read water meters, perform water quality testing, and prepare annual reports.

Are we joining Metro Vancouver’s water system?

  • No. However, acquiring the water utility gives White Rock control over the future of the City’s water supply, including the ability to make quick decisions to address/enhance the City’s water quality. 
  • In order to consider the option of joining Metro Vancouver’s water system, the City would still have had to aquire the water utility as it needs a means to distribute water to White Rock residents and surrounding area.
  • The City would also need to purchase property and build a pump station on Surrey property at South Surrey Athletic Park and construct distribution lines to get the water to both Oxford and Merklin reservoirs and pay Metro Vancouver for the cost of the water. 
  • Metro Vancouver would need to perform upstream improvements to their system to meet the additional population demand and the City would be required to pay for these improvements as well as the water.
  • Find out more about the City and the Greater Vancouver investigation into options to receive the water supply from the Greater Vancouver Water District Public Release - City of White Rock Water Supply Analysis Reports

 
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Information on the Acquisition and Process

Why did the City buy the water system?

  • In 2013, city staff and council began this consideration. The City developed a business case, heard from members of the community, and held a public meeting in June 2015 where residents expressed significant support for the idea of an acquisition.
  • As a result of that process, the City of White Rock signed a negotiated agreement with the private company to acquire the water utility from them. The City took ownership of the operations on October 30, 2015.
  • This was an important milestone for the community, as it means all utility fees are now reinvested directly into the community. Furthermore, the City also has direct control of the water system, which allows the City to accommodate growth and make upgrades to the existing infrastructure as required. 

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Water Main Flushing Program

What is water main flushing?
Water main flushing is the process used to clean water mains. Water system valves are turned off to isolate a section of the water main. Water is then flushed through in one direction at high speed to produce a scouring action that removes built-up sediment. Clean water is always used to flush water mains. After flushing, the water exits through an attachment to a fire hydrant.

What are water mains?
Water mains are underground pipes that carry water from the reservoir to your street.

Why are you "flushing" the water mains?
We clean water mains to improve water quality by removing sediment. Water travels slowly through the mains, causing sediment to settle at the bottom and build up over time. A change in direction or an increase in the rate of flow of the water in the mains (e.g., due to water main breaks, or hydrant use for firefighting) can disturb the sediment and discolour the water.

How do you clean the water mains during flushing?
We flush most of the water mains by forcing water through them at high velocity and discharging it through hydrants. This water flow scours and cleans sediment from inside the mains. We leave the hydrant open until the water runs clear. The flushed water will be de-chlorinated before entering the catch basin.

How long does it take to flush the water mains on each street?
Flushing takes takes approximately 30 minutes to an hour. We require all taps to be turned off and no toilets flushed during the flushing time as indicated in the notice to residents for individual households to ensure that the work is done properly.

How will I know when you are flushing  water mains on my street?
We will notify you via letters delivered to each residence prior to commencement of work. The letter will contain instructions and information on the program. If you live in a multi-family complex, staff will contact your property manager/landlord on when the work will begin and will include information on how long it will take.

Can I use my water when you are flushing the water mains on my street?

Do not use your water or flush your toilet when we are cleaning the water mains on your street. Using your water or flushing your toilet could draw sediment into the water pipes of your building, into water filters, washing machines, hot water tanks, etc. Turn off any time-delayed water systems, such as dishwashers, coffee makers, and lawn sprinklers.

My in-home medical equipment requires water to operate. What should I do?
Consider rescheduling the use of this equipment before or after the water main flushing. Make sure the cold water tap runs clear before connecting to the in-home water-dependent medical equipment.

What do I do if I need water during the time that I am not supposed to use water?
As a precautionary measure you may store a sufficient reserve of potable water for use during the flushing hours.

If I have time delayed appliances or water conditioning systems. What should I do?
Please turn off all time delayed water line appliances during the flushing period. If you have water conditioning systems such as water softener or filtration system, you may want to shut off the water supply valve to these systems, until after the water main flushing is completed.

Is the Fire Department aware of the water main flushing?
Yes. The City of White Rock Fire Department is informed of the flushing time, date, and location. Water for fire suppression is available from the water system at all times during the flushing program.

Will I notice anything different after you have flushed the water mains?
Your water may be discoloured. Water is sometimes discoloured after water main cleaning, but this should not last long. Do not use discoloured water for any purpose that require clean water, such as preparing food and beverages, medical and dental procedures, or laundry.

  • After flushing is complete, remove the aerator (a fine mesh grid) on your tap. Then, turn on a cold water tap, preferably the laundry tap, and let the water run for a few minutes.
    • Do not choose a tap that has a water filter connected to it; otherwise, the sediment may clog your filter.
    • Do not use a hot water tap because it could draw sediment into your hot water tank. Once the water runs clear place back the aerator.
  • Catch some water in a light coloured cup or container to see if it is clear. You can use your water if it is clear.
  • If the water does not clear within 5 - 10 minutes, wait two hours and try again.

How do I get rid of the discoloured appearance?
Customers are advised to fully open their cold water faucets in their laundry tap, kitchen and/or bathroom to flush this water out of their service piping and plumbing lines. In most cases, the water should begin to run clear again within a minute. If it does not clear, please let us know by calling 604.541.2181 or via email water@whiterockcity.ca

What should I do if the water is still discoloured after two or three hours?
If this happens, call 604.541.2181 or via email water@whiterockcity.ca 

What if someone drinks the water when it is discoloured?
Drinking discoloured water should not make you sick; however, it may not smell, taste, or look pleasant.

What else may I notice about my water after you have flushed the water mains?
Immediately after the cleaning you may notice that your water is cloudy or has a chlorine smell.

  • Cloudy water - water is cloudy when air gets in it and makes tiny bubbles. These bubbles are harmless and will disappear if you let the water sit for a few minutes.
  • Chlorine smell - we add enough chlorine to the water to keep it safe. You can easily get rid of the chlorine taste and smell by filling a container with water and keeping it in the fridge for drinking- much of the chlorine will leave the water overnight.

Why can't you flush the water mains at night?
It is safer for staff to work on the streets in daylight. Also, it is easier in the daylight to see when all the sediment has been flushed out and the water is running clear.

Where will you drain the water used in the flushing program?
We will discharge the water into the street catch basins. We will be using an environmentally friendly product (sodium thiosulphate) to remove the chlorine from the water before it is discharged.

Does discharged water affect the environment?
No. The City takes special precautions to ensure that the quantity and quality of the water flushed is safe for disposal. Before doing any field work, the City investigates water disposal routes and ensures that they are of adequate capacity to receive the water and are not sensitive to the flow. In most cases, the water is sent to stormwater collection system, or to a drainage ditch. During flushing, the field crew monitors disposal of the water, reduces its energy to prevent erosion, and adds dechlorination pucks to remove any chlorine.

Do other cities have similar water main flushing programs?
Many cities have some type of flushing program to clean their water mains. This is considered the best way to improve water quality and increase the reliability of the distribution system.

I lost water service. Why, and what do I do?
Though not intentional, this happens from time to time during the flushing program. During flushing, certain valves are closed to provide control over the direction of flow. It is likely that a valve closure resulted in loss of supply to your block. Contact the Engineering and Municipal Operations Department at 604.541.2181 or email water@operationis.ca The field crew will be sent to your block immediately to investigate and identify which valves may have been inadvertently left closed and will be reopened.

Why does flush-water (hydrant or at the tap) appear discoloured?
The colour is due to the presence of solids that are scoured from the surface of the pipes. These may include sand, sediment, iron (rust), and manganese, all of which are naturally occurring and common to virtually every water system. At the levels that cause mild discolouration, these solids are not harmful, although they may impart an undesirable taste to the water.

Is the water safe to drink?
Yes, the City has maintained compliance with all provincial and federal drinking water quality standards. The City performs frequent monitoring throughout the system to ensure the safety and aesthetic quality of your water.

How will you pay for the water main flushing program?
Funds from the water utility rates will pay for this program. Water rates will not be increased to pay for this maintenance program.

Will I be paying for the water used in flushing?
No, each residence and business is individually metered at the service connection to determine consumption. Your utility bill is based on your specific meter readings.

Is water main flushing a waste of water? Is this counterproductive to conservation?
No. We are using a unidirectional flushing technique, which uses less water than conventional flushing. The City strongly values, encourages and practices water conservation measures. In developing the flushing program, the City has considered the impact of water use and weighed it against the known benefits of flushing. While a fair amount of water is used and is necessary to create an effective scour, the City uses a flushing practice called (unidirectional) water main flushing that is specifically designed to reduce overall water usage.