New Brunswick

Expect changes in tap water, west Saint John told

Last week, the water supply for west Saint John switched over from Spruce Lake to the new South Bay well field. The conversion could have an effect on water quality.

Saint John Water has good news — and a few words of caution

Last week, the water supply for west Saint John switched over from Spruce Lake to the new South Bay wellfield. (Tim Graham/CBC)

Before you get all upset: there's no boil water order.

Last week, the water supply for west Saint John switched over from Spruce Lake to the new South Bay well field. The change from groundwater to well water will, according to Saint John Water Commissioner Brent McGovern, have an effect on quality.

But it'll be a positive change — in the long term, at least.

"Overall, it will be better-quality drinking water," McGovern said.

In the summer and fall, "well water is slightly cooler than lake water, so [customers] will notice a change in the temperature."

Clearer, too. Since "lake water has more organics in it: naturally dissolved leaves and those sorts of things," he said.

"The well water has significantly less of that."

The new well water will be more mineralized, because of its contact time with the aquifer located in South Bay just behind Islandview Middle School.

"It will be very clear, and slightly harder," McGovern said, compared with the "very soft and acidic" water from Spruce Lake. Hardness is mainly caused by calcium and magnesium and isn't a health concern, according to Saint John Water.

All good — but how's it going to taste?

"Fresh," according to McGovern. "No taste."

Now for the less-good news

As the remaining lake water moves through the system and the system is replenished by the new well water, McGovern said, there may be some short-term effects that are less-than-ideal.

Most homeowners in the area have already been notified they might notice higher levels of chlorine in the water over the next two weeks, he said.

That should be corrected shortly once Saint John Water "fine-tunes" the system.

There may also be some "discoloration" during the conversion period — but this effect, too, is temporary according to McGovern.

He advised turning on the cold water in the bathtub for 30 minutes to flush the pipes if water is a weird colour.

Saint John Water is working with the New Brunswick Department of Health and the Department of Environment and Local Government to monitor water quality during the conversion period.

Spruce Lake will continue to be maintained as a backup drinking water supply and to deliver water to Saint John's industrial users.

In the long term, water from the South Bay wellfield will require less chlorine and have fewer fluctuations in turbidity, which means a boil water order on the west side in the near future is "very unlikely."

But just in case: residents are encouraged to sign up for emergency alerts through the City of Saint John website to keep up-to-date.