Frequently asked questions about the safety and quality of the City’s water supply.
What is Fraser Health’s role as the regulator of the City of White Rock?
Fraser Health as an organization is not the regulator of water systems. It is the drinking water officer, who is employed by Fraser Health, who is responsible for the regulation of water systems as stated in the Drinking Water Protection Act and Regulations.
The drinking water officer’s mandate is to ensure the City of White Rock is in compliance with the provisions of the Drinking Water Protection Act and Regulation. It is the responsibility of the water system owner/operator under the Drinking Water Protection Act and Regulation to ensure that the water is safe for domestic use.
Where the City of White Rock is fulfilling its requirements under the Drinking Water Protection Act and Regulation, it is not within the drinking water officer’s authority to require any changes to the water supply.
What is causing the discoloured water?
The City of White Rock’s water supply comes from groundwater that is extracted from a number of wells. The groundwater contains naturally occurring dissolved manganese. Manganese is a naturally-occurring element found in soil and water. According to Health Canada (1987), the presence of manganese in drinking water supplies may be objectionable for a number of reasons unrelated to health. At concentrations above 0.15 mg/L, manganese stains plumbing fixtures or laundry and may cause undesirable tastes in beverages.
The levels of manganese in the City of White Rock groundwater supply have been stable for many years and residents have historically experienced some discolouration from their water to their toilet tanks, laundry, etc.
Are there health concerns about manganese in our drinking water?
Health Canada (1987) indicates that manganese is regarded as one of the least toxic elements to mammals. Only exposure to extremely high concentrations from human-made sources has resulted in adverse health effects. There is currently no health-related maximum acceptable concentration set for this element. The aesthetic objective for manganese in drinking water is less than or equal to 0.05 mg/L. Manganese at this recommended limit is not considered to represent a threat to health, and drinking water with much higher concentrations has been safely consumed.
In 2016, Health Canada led a public consultation process on proposed updates to the manganese in drinking water guidelines. The proposed change included:
“A maximum acceptable concentration (MAC) of 0.1 mg/L is proposed for total manganese in drinking water. An aesthetic objective (AO) of 0.02 mg/L is also proposed for total manganese in drinking water.”
At this point in time, this proposed guideline is draft only and the existing guideline is still in effect. It is not known if or when changes to the existing guideline will occur.
The average manganese level in City of White Rock’s water system remains above the aesthetic objective for manganese of 0.05mg/L. In some instances it is above the proposed MAC, but below the World Health Organization's health-based guideline level of 0.4mg/L for daily use. Levels of manganese in the discoloured water are typically higher than the aesthetic objective, but lower than the World Health Organization's guideline.
Does the City of White Rock water supply contain glyphosate?
Glyphosate is the active ingredient in some herbicide products.
The City conducted tests for glyphosate at two of the reservoir sites on August 24, 2017 and the test results show that the level of glyphosate in the water supply is below the laboratory's detection limit. The tests were conducted by an accredited water laboratory. The drinking water officer does not consider glyphosate to be a concern for the City of White Rock water supply at this time.
During flushing the water can become “dirty.” Is the water safe to drink?
While the water is coloured and turbid predominantly due to its iron rust and manganese content, it is safe to drink.
Extensive validated testing of the water distribution system and at-tap samples has occurred over 2017 during the periods of water discolouration. Testing has identified, as expected, elevated levels of manganese as the source of the discolouration. Testing for arsenic, lead, copper and iron have all shown levels within acceptable limits. Results of drinking water testing can be found on City of White Rock website.
Occurrences of discoloured water should be reported to the City of White Rock. Residents should follow instructions provided by the City about not using their water during flushing activities and can refer to the City of White Rock website for further information.
Why does the City of White Rock water need secondary disinfection?
Secondary disinfection is a necessary safety component of any large water system to ensure prevention of bacteriological contamination through the distribution system. Bacteriological testing alone is insufficient as test results may take days to indicate the presence of bacteria in the system. Real-time monitoring of disinfectant residuals ensures that early detection of any bacterial water quality can be identified and resolved in a timely manner.
Based on the reservoirs and length of distribution piping in the system, additional testing would unlikely identify potential risks at tap source, and secondary disinfection is the safest way to avoid contamination. The City of White Rock already samples well above the required standards for both bacterial and metals sampling. Increasing the number of samples would offer no greater level of protection.
Fraser Health had approved the use of either chlorination or chloramination as acceptable methods of secondary disinfection. Testing and results of chloramination and associated testing for by-products of chloramination are also within acceptable limits for the system.
How has disinfection affected the water quality?
To meet the drinking water officer's requirements, the City of White Rock disinfects the water supply using low levels of disinfectant. Initially in early 2007, secondary disinfection with chlorination led to increases in manganese discolouration. When a disinfectant and manganese mix, depending on the amount and type of disinfectant (oxidant), it can change the manganese water chemistry and result in some of the dissolved manganese precipitating out of solution, causing water discolouration, affecting taste, and staining plumbing fixtures or laundry. This precipitation is significantly less now with the introduction of chloramination as the method of secondary disinfection.
Are there any potential health risks associated with the level of arsenic or other metals in the City of White Rock drinking water?
Extensive water quality testing by EPCOR and the City of White Rock indicate that the water is bacteriologically and chemically safe to drink. Testing for arsenic, lead, copper and iron are below Canadian Drinking Water Quality Guidelines. In particular, arsenic levels have been reported to be below or just at the maximum acceptable concentration (MAC), and to-date there has been no sustained increase above the MAC. Based on the historical and current levels of arsenic, there is no indication that there would be appreciable or observable increased rates of arsenic-related cancer in the White Rock community.
The Drinking Water Officer supports the City of White Rock’s efforts to reduce the levels of arsenic and manganese in drinking water to the maximum extent practical. We also support the efforts of the City of White Rock to conduct on-site research to help design the best treatment technology and to eventually install that treatment technology.
Does the City of White Rock water system need corrosion control?
The need for corrosion control systems in drinking water systems is based on the quality of the water and the nature of the distribution system. The aim of a corrosion control system is to address risks of lead leaching from piping. Testing and results for lead in the distribution system, after the implementation of secondary disinfection, are well within acceptable limits for the system.
Does the City of White Rock have adequate water supply for emergencies?
Recent infrastructure upgrades, including the construction of two new large capacity reservoirs, have significantly increased the City’s water storage capacity to address a growing population and emergency water uses. Find more information about upgrades.
What actions can residents take about their water?
Residents of White Rock are encouraged to be aware of the system upgrades that are happening.
In particular, when the water system is undergoing a flushing program, residents in affected areas need to be aware that flushing is occurring and to take steps as advised by the City to avoid disruptions, loss of pressure or discolouration of the water. Residents should prepare a sufficient water supply for personal use when flushing is occurring. Individual water supply concerns and questions about testing should be directed to the City of White Rock.
What is being done to improve the water utility?
In broad terms, there are two main areas of the White Rock system that have needed upgrading:
i) The infrastructure and lack of secondary disinfection.
ii) The presence of naturally-occurring arsenic and manganese in some of the wells in the system.
A number of infrastructure upgrades have and continue to be implemented along with the addition of secondary disinfection to address (i) and as part of the City’s Total Water Quality Management plan. The drinking water officer is satisfied with the upgrades so far and has amended the operating permit to reflect that secondary disinfection has now been implemented. Plans are underway, and funding has been secured to address (ii), and we are satisfied with these plans to date. Until (ii) is fully addressed, the utility will likely continue to experience issues with discoloured water causing concern for consumers. As above, there is no health concern with this discolouration.
What should I do if I get sick and think it is related to my drinking water?
Personal health concerns should always be first assessed by your health care provider. Your health care provider knows your health and personal history the best. They are the best professional to assess your concerns and potential causes.
What is a DWPA/Reg Section 29 Request for Investigation?
Where complainants believe there is a threat to their water safety, they can request an investigation under Section 29 of the Drinking Water Protection Act. The drinking water officer may ask the complainant to complete a questionnaire to determine if an investigation is warranted. The drinking water officer will inform the complainant if an investigation is undertaken or not and any actions taken.
A Section 29 is only triggered when something is or may make the water non-potable. Manganese not meeting an aesthetic objective will not trigger a Section 29 request for investigation.
What about water pipe sediment testing?
Testing information provided by EPCOR and the City of White Rock indicated that the deposits on the sides of pipes will likely have little effect on the levels of metals in the water. Water testing has shown that the water is safe to drink.
Shouldn’t independent tests be done of water quality at resident taps?
The drinking water officer does not need to take additional samples as the City of White Rock uses provincially accredited laboratories for their tests and their sampling plan is approved by the drinking water officer. The drinking water officer has also conducted audit sampling of the system in the past.
Why were some residents and business owners not notified of flushing activities in their areas?
The drinking water officer has reviewed with the City of White Rock operator their communication strategy to inform customers of flushing activities in the area. Based on the public signage, door-to-door delivery and website information during flushing, we are satisfied that sufficient efforts have been made to inform customers of these potential disruptions to their service.
Regular flushing programs are routine and necessary activities for the proper maintenance of drinking water systems. Customers with concerns about the flushing program should report their questions to the City of White Rock.
What is the drinking water officer’s role regarding communications between the City of White Rock and White Rock residents on water quality issues?
The drinking water officer ensures that City of White Rock adequately informs its users in situations where the water is or may be non-potable. It is the City of White Rock’s responsibility to organize and conduct public forums with its users.