Chlorination of Chilliwack Drinking Water

Press Release March 7, 2013

Full time chlorination added as a condition to Chilliwack's
permit to operate drinking water system.

The Fraser Health Authority (FHA) has issued formal notice under Section 8 (3) of the Drinking Water Protection Act (DWPA) that as of today, a secondary disinfectant is required in Chilliwack’s drinking water system. This condition has been added to Chilliwack’s permit to operate a drinking water system and is effective immediately.

The City of Chilliwack is a water supplier as defined under the DWPA. All water suppliers are issued an annual permit to operate by the Drinking Water Officer. Water suppliers are required to remain in compliance with conditions of permit at all times. The City’s drinking water is currently being chlorinated as a result of the water quality incident last week. Fraser Health now requires chlorination to continue on permanent basis, with a minimum target residual disinfection at the tap of 0.2 mg/L .

“Council is extremely disappointed to hear this news, but we have no option but to comply with the Fraser Health Authority mandate,” says Mayor Sharon Gaetz. “Thank you to the thousands of residents who made your voices heard and fought for Chilliwack’s water. I know this news will initially be difficult for many to accept.”

Following a preliminary investigation, City of Chilliwack staff have identified several conditions that could have had potential to cause a positive E.coli test result; however it is not possible to determine the source of the E.coli bacteria with complete certainty.

The City will now need to plan for the upgrade from our current standby chlorination to a permanent full time system. The full time system has a projected cost of $1.5 million so the City will research grant programs to potentially assist with this cost. The City will also require an estimated increase of 3% to the water user fees to pay for the ongoing costs of chlorinating the water.

“Council has faced challenges recently working with the FHA over such a sensitive issue as drinking water chlorination,” says Gaetz. “However, Council is hopeful that we can work cooperatively with the Fraser Health Authority to address the community’s concerns about Metro’s proposed incineration plans.”

If you have any health related issues or questions about chlorination, please contact Fraser Health at 604.870.7919 or by email:

Water System Q&A – March 7th, 2013

Why is our water now chlorinated?

The City of Chilliwack is a water supplier as defined under the Drinking Water Protection Act. All water suppliers are issued an annual permit to operate by the local health authority. Water suppliers are required to remain in compliance with conditions of their operating permit at all times.  As of March 7th, 2013 the City’s permit requires disinfection (chlorination) to continue on a permanent basis, with a minimum target disinfection residual at the tap of 0.2 mg/L, this is a new condition of permit.

Secondary Disinfection will do the following:

    • Inactivate microorganisms in the distribution system
    • Indicate distribution system intrusions, and
    • Control biofilm growth

Why doesn’t the City ignore this order to chlorinate the water?

The Drinking Water Protection Act provides that a water supplier (in this case the City) must provide potable drinking water that meets any additional requirements established by its operating permit. Section 8(1)(b) provides that the City must comply with all terms and conditions of its operating permit. If a drinking water officer (the medical health officer if a drinking water officer is not appointed) has reason to believe that a drinking water health hazard exists or there is a significant risk of an imminent drinking water health hazard (s. 25(1)), he or she may make an order requiring the City to do one or more of the following:

(c) abate the drinking water health hazard;

(d) acquire, construct or carry out any works or do or cease to do any other thing, if this is reasonably necessary to control, abate, stop, remedy or prevent the drinking water health hazard;

(e) adjust, repair or alter any works to the extent reasonably necessary to control, abate, stop or prevent the drinking water health hazard;

In addition to seeking a court order/injunction requiring compliance with his or her order, the drinking water officer may direct that, if the person fails to take the action required by the order, the action is to be done at the expense of that person, with the costs and expenses incurred recoverable under this section, and enter or authorize other persons to enter on or into any property for the purpose of taking action in default.

A person who contravenes the Drinking Water Protection Act commits an offence (s. 45(1)) which is punishable by a fine of not more than $200,000 or imprisonment for not longer than 12 months, or both. Section 45(4) provides that if a corporation commits an offence under the Act, an employee, officer, director or agent of the corporation who authorizes, permits or acquiesces in the commission of the offence commits an offence.

In the event of loss, injury or damages arising from a failure to act, the City as a corporation could also be found liable in negligence for ignoring the recommendation of the health authority or for deciding to do nothing.

How does the City check for chlorine residual levels?

Public Works staff are using electronic chlorine test equipment to check chlorine residuals in all areas of the water distribution system. We are currently checking residual levels daily and over time as residual levels “normalize” this will reduce to a lesser frequency. The target level for chlorine residual at the tap is 0.2mg/L , minimum. This is a low residual level which is enough to provide residual protection throughout the water system yet is low enough to keep taste and odour issues to a minimum.

My drinking water has a very strong chlorine smell and taste?

In some areas of the drinking water system, the chlorine may at first seem a little strong but this will settle down to a lower level with time. Crews will be monitoring chlorine residual levels throughout the City on a regular basis. The water system has been non chlorinated for many years and for the first few weeks the chlorinated water will take time to “normalize”. This initial period of chlorination will cause higher taste and odour issues but these issues will be reduced over time. Chlorine residuals will remain well within Drinking Water Quality Guidelines.

If you have concerns with the taste and odour please refer to our Chlorinated Water Helpful Tips Section.

How is Chilliwack water tested to ensure it remains safe to drink?

The Drinking Water Protection Act Regulations require all public water systems to take water samples every week. The City takes 44 water quality samples every week and these are sent to the BC Centre for Disease Control laboratory for testing.

What about disinfection by products?

Chlorine is one of the most widely used forms of disinfection in Canada and the United States. It is effective at killing many forms of waterborne bacteria and viruses. When chlorine is used to disinfect water supplies containing high levels of organic matter, water quality specialists have discovered that disinfection by-products (DPB’s) called trihalomethanes (THMs) and haloacetic acids (HAAs) can form.

DPB’s are a problem in water systems that use water with a high organic content, especially in systems that use surface water supplies. Chilliwack’s source water comes from the Sardis / Vedder aquifer and is of an extremely high quality with negligible organic content. What this means is that the risk of DBP formation would be almost non existent. With this being the case DBP’s will likely not manifest in the City’s water system. As a precautionary measure and in order to monitor for any DBP’s the City will be instigating additional testing procedures to check for DBP formation on a regular basis.

If you have any health concerns or health related questions about chlorinated water you can contact Fraser Health Authority directly at;
Phone : 604-870-7919
or by mail to
Fraser Health Authority
102 – 34194 Marshall Road
Abbotsford, BC
V2S 5E4

Why can’t we switch to using a non chemical system like ozone or UV?

There are a few non chemical water treatment options such as ozone, UV and micro filtration that are used by some water suppliers to purify their water. These methods are used for "primary" treatment of source water to remove impurities and to kill harmful bacteria so that the water can be used in the drinking water system. However, prior to entering the drinking water system, the water which has already undergone primary treatment, must go through a second process called "secondary disinfection" where a disinfection chemical, such as chlorine, is added to the water. The reason that both primary and secondary treatments are required is that UV, Ozone and filtration leave no disinfectant residual in the water as it flows through the water system - the addition of a secondary disinfectant allows for a disinfectant residual to remain in the water from source to tap.

In Chilliwack’s case the source water pumped from the aquifer is already very pure and free of contaminants and hence primary treatment is not required. Ozone and UV are not suitable for use as a secondary disinfectant because they leave no disinfectant residual in the system. Without exception, all secondary disinfection options involve the use of chemicals in one form or another to provide a stable disinfectant residual throughout the water system.

The City’s permit to operate now requires a disinfectant residual to be maintained in the distribution system and chlorination achieves this.

I thought the City’s chlorination system was intended for stand by use only?

The City’s “stand by” system was designed and constructed so that it has the capability to chlorinate the entire water system once activated. The system will require more hands on maintenance than a system that was designed specifically for full time chlorination but it can operate on a full time basis. The City will be looking at options to upgrade the existing system over time.

How much is this chlorination going to cost the water user?

There are additional costs associated with operating a chlorinated water distribution system. The additional costs will have to be paid for by an increase in water user fees which is likely to add around 3% onto current rates.

Who is going to pay for a water filter in my home if don’t have to drink chlorinated water?

There are household filter systems available that will remove chlorine from drinking water. Chlorinated water is supplied in compliance with Canadian Drinking Water Quality Guidelines and to not drink chlorinated water is a personal choice. To install an in home water filter system would be an individual homeowners personal choice and would be at their own cost.

Updated March 7, 2013

Chlorinated Water – Helpful Tips

How can I reduce the taste and odour of chlorine in my tap water ?

There are a number of things that you can do to reduce and even remove the taste and odour of chlorine from your tap water.

Water jugThe simplest thing you can do is to fill a jug with water and keep it in the fridge for drinking. Much of the chlorine taste and odour will leave the water if left overnight. Cold water also tastes and smells better than water at room temperature.

BritaUsing a water jug with a filter, such as a Brita filter jug, will reduce the taste and odour of chlorine in your water and the jug can be kept full in your fridge. Water can be consumed as soon as it has filtered into the jug.

Water filtersThere are various faucet mounted water filters available at most home improvement and department stores. These filters simply attach onto your existing faucet and up to 99% of chlorine is filtered from the water as it comes out of the tap.

Inline Water FilterFor a more permanent solution there are inline water filters available that can be plumbed directly into the cold water supply line under any sink. These filters remove chlorine as water flows through on its way to the faucet. Once installed the filters need to be changed every 10 to 12 months. There are a number of filters on the market varying in price from around $50 to $200. It should take a plumber about 2 hours to install an under sink filter.

Full House Water FilterTo remove chlorine from all fixtures in a house it is possible to buy a full house water filter system. These are larger size filters that are plumbed into the main cold water supply pipe where the pipe enters the house. These filters will remove chlorine so that all water used in the house is up to 99% chlorine free. This system can cost anywhere from $200 to $300 to buy and a full house filter can be installed by a plumber in about 1.5 hours.

With all of the above filter systems, in order for them to remain effective at chlorine removal, is it important that filters are changed at intervals given in the manufacturers instructions.

Can I use chlorinated water in my fish tank ?

Fish TankUsing chlorinated tap water in a fish tank / aquarium can cause damage to your biological filter. This damage will allow ammonia to start to build up in the tank, eventually becoming harmful to your fish. For this reason it is important that you treat your water to remove chlorine with an appropriate dechlorinator before you add it to your tank.

You should be able to get a dechlorinator from your local pet shop. Most stores carry a variety of dechlorinators. Remember, though, you only need to treat the new water you are adding to the tank, you do not need to treat the entire tank volume unless you are filling the tank for the first time, or have drained all the water from the tank for some reason. Dechlorinators are also generally very fast acting. Most will neutralize the chlorine in a bucketof water in just a minute or two.