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125 years later, it's still all about the water

As some in Brandon continue to struggle with lead pipes bringing water — and the deadly metal — into their home, the city itself is still trying to get its water to an acceptable level of chemical byproducts.

By and large, Brandon's water is excellent. I've drank it all my life.

But as science marches on, and as we discover new things that we need to be worried about, and more sensitive tests to monitor these things, it's a constant battle to keep atop it all.

The latest report on Brandon's water quality shows that the city hasn't been able to eliminate THMs from the water.

These chemicals, trihalomethanes, are produced as a byproduct of disinfection. When the city's water treatment plant adds chlorine to river water, it helps knock out decaying plant matter and algae. It's an important step in turning the dirty Assiniboine into clean tap water.

According to the submission that will be presented to City Council on Monday night, which you can read here, along with the complete report, the core issue is "river water source quality degradation".

That is, the river is dirtier, and it's harder to make it clean.

I suspect that, like many bodies of surface water, the river is being subjected to a lot of fertilizer runoff, and wasterwater phosphates (from things like dishwashing detergeant) that basically supercharge it for algae.

To help combat the drop in water quality, the city blends in some purer groundwater, from wells drilled in the Assiniboine River valley.

According to the report linked above, these wells were drilled in 1996 as an emergency supply, in case something happened to the Assiniboine River. Now, though, and since 2011, the city has been blending in ground water when the river water is at its worst (generally during spring flooding).

And, as the city’s director of engineering and water services, Patrick Pulak, told the Sun over the weekend, they're looking at drilling even more wells, so that they can dilute the THMs down even more, and get them below the 0.1 mg/L required by the province.

(As an aside, the FDA in the United States requires drinking water have less than 0.08 mg/L of THMs.)

Setting aside the question of river pollution, and also the question of whether it is right to be drawing down an aquifer, I was amused to see that groundwater wells are being touted as the solution.

Once again, it seems, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Exactly 125 years ago, Brandon was struggling with the very same issue — water. And the options being debated were very similar: river water? or wells?

As you can read, in this story from the Feb. 7, 1889 edition of the Brandon Weekly Sun, the favoured option was artesian wells. And there seemed to be quite a few bubbling up between 10th and 13th Streets.

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A very informative article, Grant Hamilton. Thank you.
"That is, the river is dirtier, and it's harder to make it clean.
I suspect that, like many bodies of surface water, the river is being subjected to a lot of fertilizer runoff, and wasterwater phosphates (from things like dishwashing detergeant) that basically supercharge it for algae."

And one thing for certain, the province back then, in 1889, did not allow arsenic to be dumped into the
Assiniboine River like they permit the Town of Virden to do now!

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