Article courtesy of Craig Pearson | March 5, 2015 | The Windsor Star | Shared as educational material
Enwin Utilities is spending $1 million for new equipment to help reduce bromate, a chemical byproduct of ozonation and a suspected carcinogen, in Windsor drinking water.
Bromate has increasingly appeared in water samples the last four or five years, as water consumption has decreased and more ozone than necessary has been used in a system meant for greater volume. Bromate in Windsor water exceeded the provincial allowable maximum once in 2014 and 15 times in 2013.
Coun. Irek Kusmierczyk says citizens need not be alarmed, since local water is safe, given bromate is found only in trace amounts, and Enwin is tackling the problem. He nevertheless wants changes.
“Safe drinking water is the most fundamental service a municipality provides,” Kusmierczyk said Thursday. “This is a top priority.
“The bottom line is that the level of bromate in our water is not acceptable,” he added. “It is not acceptable that in 2013 there were 71 occurrences where the bromate concentration was at or above the maximum allowable concentration.”
Kusmierczyk briefly raised the issue at Monday’s council meeting, asking for a report that explains what bromate is, the significance of the levels found in Windsor water, and what steps are being taken to reduce it.
He was reacting to a Windsor Utilities report sent to council that showed bromate appeared consistently in tests of Windsor water.
The provincial maximum allowable bromate level of 10 parts per billion was not included in the report. But Kusmierczyk noticed Windsor water matched or exceeded the allowable levels five times in 2014, including once when it tested for 11 parts per billion.
“It is also not acceptable that the report provided to council left out information on what the Ontario Safe Drinking Water standards are,” Kusmierczyk said. “This information would make it easier for councillors to compare our samples with provincial standards. Other jurisdictions — like Halton — not only provide the standards side-by-side with their sample results, but they also highlight whenever the samples exceed provincial standards.”
Garry Rossi, Enwin’s director of water production, considers bromate the main issue facing local drinking water.Kusmierczyk also wants to know if council was informed of the 71 times in 2013 that bromate in Windsor water matched or exceeded the provincial allowable maximum.
“Currently, bromate is the only concern we have,” Rossi said. “We highlighted it when we began to see increased bromate levels and we have put a plan in place to address it.”
The $1 million will pay for a smaller generator that produces less ozone, which Enwin has been using as a disinfectant since 2001. Enwin — which also supplies water to Tecumseh and LaSalle — previously disinfected drinking water with chlorine, considered to have many more side-effects.
“In 2001 we didn’t anticipate all of the changes to industry, and water conservation, which has led to a reduced demand for drinking water in the city,” Rossi said. “We have some limitations with the current equipment we have, especially in the winter when there is less demand for water.
“So we’re going to purchase a smaller ozone generator which will better match our system demand.”
Windsor water use has dropped about 25 per cent since 2007, according to an Enwin report.
Rossi hopes the new generator will start working before the summer.
“We always strive to have the best quality water and lowest concentrations of any contaminant,” Rossi said.
Derek Coronado, co-ordinator of the Citizens Environment Alliance, says he would be more concerned if bromate levels consistently exceeded the allowable maximum. Still, he applauds Enwin’s pending purchase of a new ozone generator.
“It’s prudent for them to invest in better regulating ozone,” Coronado said. “According to Health Canada and the EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) bromate is a probable human carcinogen so we want to make sure it’s well within acceptable guidelines.”