New Brunswick

West side water woes: New Saint John water system leaves dishes dirty

People living on Saint John’s west side are facing the hard facts now that their water comes from a well system.

West side residents are grumbling about a new water system which leaves streaks and scales behind

In September, Saint John Water switched over to well water for the city's west side as part of its $216.8 million plan to upgrade the city’s water infrastructure. (Matthew Bingley/CBC)

A restaurant owner on Saint John's west side is one of several people grumbling about the area's new water system. 

On Sept. 15, Saint John Water switched over its distribution system for the west side. That means a change from using surface water from Spruce Lake, to using groundwater from three wells from the South Bay Aquifer.

The changeover was the first component of a $216.8 million plan to upgrade the city's water infrastructure. The city warned customers the switch would result in harder, more mineralized water. But it boasted that water is traditionally of a higher quality because it's filtered through soil.

Max Kotlowski, owner of the Reversing Falls Restaurant and Tourist Centre, isn't happy with the trade off.

He just re-opened the restaurant after more than a year of renovations. He says the new water is system is dirtying his brand new dishes.

'Full of minerals'

"It's a big issue because you know we have a lot of glass there," he said. "All of that has to be cleaned extra to remove these mineral deposits." 

Beyond the mineral spotting on his dishes, Kotlowski also has concerns about his new equipment. The hard water, he said, will cause mineral scaling on his hot water heater.

People living on the west side are complaining that the new harder water is leaving mineral spots on their dishes and cars. (Matthew Bingley/CBC )

Kotlowski's not the only one concerned. Local resident Harold Stears gives the new water the thumbs down.

"It's full of minerals," he said. "When you wash your car or anything everything gets all spotty."

Three weeks with the new hard water is enough for Stears to think the city was better off with water from Spruce Lake.
“It’s full of minerals” said Harold Stears whose wife is also unhappy with a lack of shampoo suds. (Matthew Bingley/CBC)

It's a complaint west side councillor Blake Armstrong has been hearing about. "Apparently it's a little harder than anticipated, so it's affected some tea cups, coffee cups, and some washing machines," he said.

Switch was worth it

But Armstrong said the switch, difficult as it may be for some, was worth it. The city's goal was to have safe and clean drinking water. "We've accomplished that with the well water," he said.

For those unhappy with the switch, Armstrong suggested swapping soaps or installing a water softener.

West side councillor Blake Armstrong said the water is safe and clean, which is what the city set out to accomplish. Any issues he said could be solved with a water softener or a different brand of soap. (Matthew Bingley/CBC)

Not everyone is upset though. 

Susan Nelson said while the water is no longer soft, she's seeing improvements elsewhere.

Can't please everybody

"When I take a bath it's clear, it's not green.  It doesn't leave a film around my bathtub," she said. "I think it's way better. I see a huge difference for the positive."

Many like Susan Nelson are happy with how the new water tastes and a lack of green film left behind on bathtubs. (Matthew Bingley/CBC )

But Max Kotlowski doesn't see the positive. 

"The west side is getting you know, the short end of the stick here," he said. "We're now forced to either buy water softeners or live with hard water that you can't even use to wash your body."

Councillor Armstrong said he understands the switch to harder water will result in extra costs for some. But, "unfortunately we can't please everybody," he said. 

About the Author

Matthew Bingley is a CBC reporter based in Saint John.