Emo receives water complaints from local resident

Merna Emara
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The Township of Emo has been receiving complaints from Amanda Kellar, 31, who claims her water is rusty brown, sometimes blood red, forcing her to buy drinking water since March.
“I have been complaining about my water since the end of April,” Kellar said. “It is brown. It has sediment in it.”
Kellar said although she emailed the Township of Emo and the email also went to council, she hasn’t seen any action taken.
“They did not record the minutes on the meeting. It is a municipal regulation to have the minutes recorded,” Kellar said.
Bridget Foster, clerk-treasurer at the Emo council, said in an emailed response that the brown water in this particular area is being caused by localized flushing of hydrants and the stirring of sediment due to older ductile iron distribution piping.
“Although unpleasant, this is an aesthetic issue only. The water is regularly tested and meets the provincial drinking water regulations,” Foster said in the email.
Kellar said she got a water testing kit from the Northwestern Health Unit. She then called them back for the results and they told her she has count of five coliform bacteria in the water.
“I am not a water expert,” Kellar said. “As far as I am aware, it is supposed to be zero when it leaves the plant. I have to buy [drinking] water. You can’t really buy water for your dishwasher or your washing machine. I’m forced to use [pipe] water.”
According to a fact sheet by Public Health Ontario, total coliforms are a group of bacteria commonly found in animal waste, sewage, soil and vegetation.
“They are also found in the intestines of animals and humans,” the fact sheet stated. “Total coliforms are not likely to cause illness, but their presence indicates that your water supply may have been contaminated by more harmful micro-organisms.”
Kellar said she understands that there is a chance the brown water colour could be either from flushing the hydrants or rust from the pipe. However, she said there is no way for her to know the exact reason.
“I do not know how I am supposed to know that,” Kellar said. “That’s why I’m contacting the town. There is an issue whether it is theirs or mine, it needs to be addressed. I can’t just go and start digging up my front lawn to look at my own pipes. Whatever they flush into my house when they do the hydrants is what is causing the damage in my house.”
Foster said the Ontario Clean Water Agency has recently been flushing hydrants in the area of concern for an unrelated matter, and this flushing created an increase in brown water issues for certain residents.
However, Kellar said this is not the first time she’s seen discoloured water. “This is the first year we are actually home all summer. We are pretty much stuck here due to COVID, but I have complained about it in past years,” Kellar said.
“They flush the hydrants any time they want without notice and when you turn on your tap, your water is like blood,” Kelar said. “You go to jump in the warm shower in the morning and they flush the hydrants and you are not aware because they have not told anybody, it is pretty gross.”
Foster said OCWA and the Township of Emo are actively working to secure an engineering firm to develop a project-ready solution to replace older ductile iron piping in the Township.
“Due to the estimated significant cost of replacing the piping, this project is pending external funding, which the Township hopes to receive through provincial and/or federal funding programs,” Foster said in the email. “OCWA will now revert to its regular twice-annual flushing schedule in the spring and fall and will provide ample notice to residents in advance.”
That being said, Kellar says her main concern is the lack of response, not the water discolouration.
“I understand that things take time like engineering and funding, but there’s been no aid or relief for me or any of my neighbours during this time of the world pandemic and none of us have clean water to properly sanitize,” Kellar added.