New Brunswick

Mayor hosts meeting on water problems in west Saint John

Saint John's mayor and council will hold an information session tonight on the city’s west side where, residents blames a new water system for leaks in their plumbing.

Residents invited to information session at Branch 69 on Thursday at 7 p.m.

Pipes are still exposed at Achim Khitab's physiotherapy clinic after he and his wife have dealt with 11 leaks since January. (Matthew Bingley/CBC)

Mayor Don Darling and council will hold an information session tonight in west Saint John, where dozens of residents have been complaining about the quality of water.

As part of upgrades to city water services, 5,600 customers in the area started getting water from an aquifer last September.

The water is mineral-heavy and more than 100 homeowners say it's causing problems with their pipes.

Darling and council have invited residents to the information meeting at Branch 69 of the Royal Canadian Legion on Wilson Street.

Achim Khitab plans on being there. He and his wife own Atlantic Rehab and Physiotherapy, which has seen its fair share of plumbers this year. Since January, Khitab said he's dealt with 11 leaks.

Khitab isn't expecting too many answers, but he's still planning to attend Thursday's meeting to find out what he can. (Matthew Bingley/CBC)

"It was getting a bit ridiculous," he said. "The plumber would come in one day, I'd have to call him the next."

Khitab said he was sorting out his second bill, when he noticed another leak.

"I walk down the stairs and I say, 'You're not going to believe this, but I just saw another one sprout in front of me.'"

While he waits for his plumber to have time to swap his copper pipes for plastic ones, Khitab is hoping to get answers at the public meeting.

"Not optimistic there will be any," he said. 

The trouble is the city still doesn't have a definitive answer to what the problem is.

Saint John Water suspects the problem has to do with a change of the water's chemical composition, which is causing the loss of mineral scaling on older pipes, exposing leaks.

An investigation has been launched, but it could take months.

'This is about the right fit and conditions so that people can live in some level of peace,' said Saint John mayor Don Darling. (Matthew Bingley/CBC)

Darling is hoping the meeting will be an opportunity to let people know where things stand.

"There's a lot of speculation," he said "I'm a westsider myself. I look at the wells from my house, so I understand that people have concerns."

Darling said there will inevitably be technical questions he can't answer, but he plans to note them. The mayor added that he's hoping people will remain civil at the meeting.

Wayne Hansen expects the meeting will be rowdy, despite the mayor's hope for a civil discussion. (Matthew Bingley/CBC)

Legion member Wayne Hansen isn't so certain Darling's wish will be granted. He's experienced leaks himself and is certain the meeting will involve residents voicing their frustration.

"Oh, I think it will just be a very calm meeting," said Hansen with a grin. "Could be very rowdy."


Matthew Bingley is a CBC reporter based in Saint John.