Some Winnipeg home owners are still having to deal with brown tap water, even though city bureaucrats have spent thousands of dollars trying to figure out what's causing it.
The City of Winnipeg confirmed to CBC News that it hired CH2M Hill Canada Ltd., a consulting firm, in a $35,000 contract last year to help determine possible causes of the brown water.
However, the problem has yet to be resolved. A city spokesperson says they have not identified any causes other than "operational changes in flow," and the investigation continues.
"If we have to get a consultant in, then I think that's money well spent because it's a pretty fundamental thing. People want water they have confidence in," St. Vital Coun. Brian Mayes said Tuesday.
Mayes said he has fielded several phone calls and emails from constituents frustrated with recurring bouts of brown water.
"People want to know why their water doesn't look right," he said.
'You can't get things done'
The city's 311 hotline has been flooded with calls from fed-up residents like Mike Jones, who says brown water has been flowing — off and on — from his taps at home since last summer.
Jones said for the past year, he has not been able to do his laundry on a regular basis because the discoloured water stains his clothes.
"It's lasting hours and hours per day, to the point where you can't live your life, you can't get things done," he told CBC News on Tuesday.
The city has cited a number of factors in the past year, from water main breaks to drier than usual weather conditions.
Jones said operators with 311 weren't very helpful when he called to complain.
"Oh, it's high consumption. Oh, it was from pumping station issues. Oh, there's water main breaks. The point is they don't know what the issue is," he said.
Officials have said drinking the discoloured water should not make people sick, but they advise residents against drinking it or using it to wash dishes or laundry.
An inspector who was sent by the city to Jones's home said the discoloured water was safe, but Jones said he and his family are not convinced.
"My wife went, drew a glass of water from our sink that was discoloured, and handed it to him and said, 'If you're telling me this water is safe for a newborn child, please have a drink.' And he flat-out refused to take the water. What does that tell you?" he said.
Looking at various reasons
The city said it is investigating all possible explanations for the discoloured water, from a large leak in the water distribution system to someone taking Winnipeg water without authorization.
In the meantime, staff have been advising residents to avoid using tap water for an hour if it turns brown.
They have also said residents should try again in 30 minutes if the water appears discoloured or dirty.
Jones said he was told to keep his taps running whenever the water turns brown, but he said doing that so frequently is becoming expensive.
He said he wants the city to reimburse him for his $500 water bill.
The issue may resurface when the city's infrastructure renewal and public works committee meets on Sept. 10.