Onoway apologizes for 'alarming' pink tap water

The Town of Onoway in central Alberta is apologizing to its 1,000 residents after drinking water from taps started running bright pink.

Complaints about strange fuchsia-coloured water started pouring into the town office Monday night.

Residents of the town, 60 kilometres northwest of Edmonton, were puzzled and perturbed by the bright pink water, and took to social media to share their concerns.

"My hubby gets up this morning to take a shower and he goes, 'Sheila, why is there pink water coming out of the faucet?'" said Sheila Pockett, laughing.

The water cleared up after running for four or five minutes, she said.

Even though the couple find the tap water too hard to drink, she wishes the town had posted a warning on its website to let residents know whether the pink water was harmful.

In a statement posted to its Facebook page at 10 a.m. Tuesday, the town said the strange colour was caused by a chemical used during routine flushing of the lines and was not a cause for concern.

"Yesterday, during normal line flushing and filter backwashing, a valve seems to have stuck open allowing potassium permanganate to get into the sump reservoir," reads the statement. "The reservoir was drained, however some of the chemical still made it into the distribution system.

"While it is alarming to see pink water coming from your taps, potassium permanganate is used in normal treatment processes to help remove iron and manganese and residents were never at risk."

Alberta Environment inspected the water lines Tuesday afternoon and the town hoping to complete all necessary repairs and maintenance by the end of Tuesday.

Mayor apologizes

The town did not comment publicly on the incident until hours after the first complaints were made.

Mayor Dale Krasnow apologized for that on the town's website.

"We were never advised by Alberta Environment to issue a public advisory and all indications are that there was never a public health risk," said Krasnow.

"Could the town have done a better job of communicating what was going on yesterday to our community — absolutely, without a doubt. And we do apologize for that."

Pockett took the incident in stride.

"I know spring is in the air, but spring in the taps? Come on."

Potassium permanganate, also known as potassium salt, is a chemical disinfectant commonly used to remove iron and hydrogen sulphide (rotten egg smell) from well water and waste water.

Although not highly toxic, concentrated solutions of potassium permanganate can be harmful to the skin.

Permanganate is a strong oxidizer similar to chlorine. It can cause irritation or burns when the undiluted salt makes direct contact with skin.