Verner’s ‘brown water’ problem makes rare winter appearance

·2 min read

West Nipissing municipal staff are flushing hydrants in Verner today as they investigate a mysterious winter appearance of ‘brown water’ during the past couple of weeks.

Some residents, but not all, are reporting water issues that have a long history in the area due to manganese found in the Veuve River, the source for Verner’s drinking water. While the mineral is considered safe to ingest, it's actually required in small amounts in the human diet, it smells and tastes bad and is hard on laundry.

“When investigating this weekend, the water was clear from the plant as well as in the distribution system,” Jay Barbeau, chief administrative officer, said Tuesday morning. “Our operators have deemed the issue to be a localized one where sediment in the pipe has been dislodged.

“We are flushing hydrants in that area today to hopefully rectify the situation,” he said.

Photos posted to a community-centric Facebook group page called On s’parle Verner Let’s Talk feature sinks and tubs with yellow-brown water. Comments indicate the issue started the week prior to Christmas with only some households experiencing issues.

Carole Cousineau posted that Cartier and St. Amour streets seem to be getting it the worst.

Barbeau and several of the residents have noted it isn’t usually an issue during winter.

“It is usually a warm-weather issue,” he said, noting the Veuve River historically has a “high manganese content during the summer months.”

Barbeau said treating the water with potassium permanganate worked to alleviate the issue last year.

“We have successfully treated the issue for the past year with a new chemical,” he said, explaining the previous chemical they used was “creating by-products that had maximum limits allowed by the Ministry of Environment. The new agent, potassium permanganate does not and is much more efficient.”

The municipality has been wrestling with the issue since the water plant was constructed in the late 1970s, according to posts by Marcel Lafreniere.

Mayor Joanne Savage posted a notice that there has been a request to add the issue to the agenda for tonight’s municipal council meeting.

In 2019, water bottles were distributed to community members and council discussed a more permanent solution which involved extending the municipal water service out of Sturgeon Falls.

Dave Dale is a Local Journalism Reporter with BayToday.ca. LJI is funded by the Government of Canada.

Dave Dale, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, BayToday.ca