Brown tap water causing concern in Langley Township

The brown water flowing from the taps in the Murrayville neighbourhood of Langley Township has some of the residents worried for their health and safety.

Photos posted to the community Facebook page show drinking glasses, a sink and a hot tub full of foul-looking water. 

"None of us trust it and no one in their right mind would want to drink water the looks like that," said Krystal Woodward in a message to CBC News.

Woodward says because of the brown water, she is buying expensive premixed baby formula because she doesn't feel safe mixing the tap water with less expensive powered formula to feed to her baby.

But the Langley Township director of public works says despite the unappetizing appearance, the brown water is perfectly safe to drink.

"It's really an aesthetic issue," said Roland Zwaag. "It is not a health hazard."

According to Zwaag a portion of Murrayville gets its water from five or six groundwater sources that contain naturally occurring iron and manganese.

Randy Hayward/Facebook

Chlorine reaction 

The problem happens when chlorine is added to treat the water for bacteria. Chlorine reacts with manganese, creating the discolouration along with a small amount of sediment that precipitates out.

Zwaag says circumstances in September conspired to make the problem worse than usual.

"At the end of the summer we had a bit of rainfall and the [agricultural] water consumption went down. And because the chlorine dosing is a manual adjustment, the levels increased," he said. 

Murrayville resident Randy Hayward says knowing the brown water is safe doesn't make it any more appetizing.

"Not at all," he said. "It's the optics of it, right?" 

"Two weeks ago we had my wife's sister and husband staying with us and when I got home from work they said, Randy, you should have seen the water!"

Zwagg says households experiencing brown water should contact the township directly so his department can respond by sending a crew to do a "water exchange" on the street — flushing out the brown water from the system with clear.

Staff at Langley Township are currently studying ways to fix the problem, including discontinuing the use of some wells, treating the water for manganese, or switching more residents to Metro Vancouver water.

A report and costing is expected to be brought to city council by year end.