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Township welcomes move as region simplifies water treatment process in Maryhill

The simplified water treatment process in Maryhill means that the two systems can now be shared

A changeover in how Maryhill’s drinking water is handled should pay dividends to Woolwich in the form of improved efficiency, as two distinct well systems will have inoperability.

The Region of Waterloo last week changed its treatment process of Maryhill’s drinking water, simplifying its methods of disinfecting the village’s potable water. The move was welcomed by the township.

“It’s a great initiative. It’s better for the residents. It’s better for the township. It’s just a great little project that the region’s decided to undertake,” said Jared Puppe, a project supervisor with the Woolwich engineering department.

“We’ve been certainly asking them to do this for a number of years, so we’re quite happy that they’re doing it this year.”

Currently, the town has two drinking water systems. The Maryhill distribution system situated in the south of the town around Isley, and the Maryhill Heights distribution system in the north. The systems each draw water from two distinct wells and provide water separately to 180 and 147 people, respectively.

The systems used two different methods to disinfect the drinking water, which prevented the two water supplies from being mixed with each other without the potential for problems.

Both systems use chlorine to disinfect the water they draw up, but the Isley system has the added precaution of adding ammonia sulfate to the water – a process called chloramination – to keep the quantity of chlorine particles up in the water supply.

“We had metallic distribution system out in the Isley area, the metallic tends to eat up the chlorine quicker than the plastic does so that’s why the ammonia is added in,” Puppe explained, adding that chloramination is a common process, and is used for Elmira and St. Jacobs because they get their water piped a longer distance from Waterloo.

But a study conducted by the region determined that they could eliminate the chloramination process for the Isley water supply without effecting the water safety. Besides simplifying the treatment process, the change allows the two water supply systems to be used interchangeably, letting one system support the other as needed.

“In case we have a low pressure drop in the Isley system, the Heights system picks that up. Right now we’re depended on the Isley system, and the Isley supply is not nearly as great as the Heights supply. So that’s some (of the) challenges we’ve had out in Isley is at times you may see pressure drops,” said Puppe.

“We’re always flushing that (Isley) system out there all the time to maintain their chlorine residuals. So we’d expect our manpower time out in Maryhill will be far reduced when this happens because you’ll have the Heights being able to compensate.”

The change in water treatment is expected to have a slight effect on the water’s taste, which the region says is normal.

The region and township have a divided responsibility over Maryhill’s drinking water systems. The water supply and treatment system itself is under the region’s auspices, while the township owns and manages the distribution system. Responsibility for water quality testing is likewise divided between the two governments, which report yearly on each system.

According to 2016’s annual reports produced by the region and township, the Isley water system tested above Ontario’s standards for chloramine concentrations twice in the year. While the province mandates a limit on chloramine levels in drinking water, the compound is considered fairly benign even at levels above the limit.

In an emailed statement, Olga Vrentzos, manager of water operations and maintenance for the region, explained:

“There is a legislative requirement to include results that are above half the provincial standard in the annual water quality reports, there isn’t a cause for concern. The two adverse chloramine events in 2016 were operationally based and quickly resolved.

“One of the benefits of the planned changes to the disinfection method in the Maryhill system is the elimination of adverse results for chloramine.”

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