Sodium hydroxide to flow through Thunder Bay's water

Over the next couple of months, sodium hydroxide will start to flow from the taps in Thunder Bay, Ont.

Child care report also accepted

City staffers Jim Vukmanich and Michelle Warywoda speak to Thunder Bay city council about adding sodium hydroxide to the city's water supply. (Jeff Walters/CBC)
Tap water in Thunder Bay will have another chemical added this year. It's sodium Hydroxide, also known as lye or caustic soda. 3:48

Over the next couple of months, sodium hydroxide will start to flow from the taps in Thunder Bay, Ont.

City council approved adding the chemical to the municipal water supply at their meeting Monday night, after reviewing a report from administration.

The goal of reducing the amount of lead in the city's water supply is achieved by adding the chemical, according to Jim Vukmanich, a chemist at the Bare Point Water Treatment Plant.

"It doesn't get rid of the lead, it's simply that corrosion rate is lowered," he said. "And, it's lowered to an extent where at the tap, we see a reduction."

The city has tested the chemical for about two years in the Current River area. City staff said the taste, odour and colour of the water will not change. It will also still fall within provincial guidelines for sodium levels.

Sodium hydroxide is also known as lye or caustic soda.

"Based on the results from the pilot study, the chemical addition of sodium hydroxide for pH adjustment is a safe, effective method of reducing lead levels at the tap," said Michelle Warywoda, the city's Director of Environment.

"The study showed no indication that disinfection was compromised by adjusting the pH to a level that's effective in reducing lead concentrations."

The chemical addition will cost the city $264,000 per year. 

Child care

City council also approved the Task Force on city-operated child care to continue its consultations with a number of stakeholder groups.

The group was established in 2014 to look at the efficiency of city run daycare, and to find cost savings.

While the program is operated by the city, the Thunder Bay District Social Services Administration Board (DSSAB) administers the program, including determining where child care centres operate.
Grace Remus Child Care Centre is one of four daycares operated by the city. It could be amalgamated with the Algoma Child Care Centre. (Jeff Walters/CBC)

"In the course of your discussions, your engagement with the broader community, were there also suggestions in how to enhance the child care presence by the city?" asked Coun. Iain Angus.

Administration said it heavily leans on private child care spaces to provide services in the evening, and needs help from the community to satisfy the demand for daycare.

Currently the city serves just under 500 children at its centres.

The report identified three recommendations for childcare in the city. They are:

  • Continue with the status quo
  • Merge the Algoma and Grace Remus Centres and relocate them to St. Margaret's, Algonquin or St. Elizabeth's School
  • Relocate Algoma Child Care Centre to either St. Margaret's, Algonquin or St. Elizabeth's School

The city requires the authorization of the DSSAB to make any of the changes identified in the report.


A Notice of Motion filed by Coun. Shelby Ch'ng did not get any time on the floor at Monday's meeting.

The change proposed, to plow residential streets after 5 cm of snow had fallen, would require council to change its road standards, and required nine councillors to agree with hearing the proposal.

Ch'ng's notice of motion asked for the city to plow all streets, not just major roads after 5 cm of snow accumulates on the ground.


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