They started with chlorine gas in 2002, and then changed to treating the water to MIOX in 2005, and while successful in cleaning the water, it left the town with exceptionally high byproducts.
While Health Canada recommends 80 parts per million for trihalomethanes (THMS), the chemical compounds formed when water is disinfected with chlorine, Sunnyside had been scoring off the charts, consistently at 250 THMs and sometimes running as high as 500 THMs.
Inquiries into a water treatment plant came back with a $4-million price tag, which the town couldn’t afford.
Because of their high THMs, an Ontario-based company called SanEcoTec, who use hydrogen peroxide to blast out the chlorine, approached the community to see if it was interested in a water treatment pilot project.
Sunnyside would be the first community in Newfoundland to try the procedure, and only the second overall aside from a small town in Ontario.
Mayor Robert Snook says the installation of hydrogen peroxide began on Sept. 8, 2015 and the pilot project ran until Dec. 8 where it met the requirements set out by the town.
THMs fell well below the acceptable standards and were done for $338,000, a fraction of the price of the proposed water plant.
Mayor Snook says he now drinks the water right out of the tap.
While many in the community had Britta water filters, Snook says they learned there were health risks with bathing in the water because the chlorine absorbs through the skin.
Snook says that while he used filtration, he was aware some people were drinking the water, which Health Canada says can pose a health threat over time.
The only concern residents have now is with some discoloration following heavy rains, but Snook says that should be fixed after they put in a filtration system in spring.
“It’s a relief to have that done, and if we can just get the water to be a little more aseptically pleasing. If we can filter out some of the organics out of the water before it gets to the MIOX we’d be saving dollars on the MIOX and the hydrogen peroxide,” says Snook.
Otto Smith has lived in Sunnyside all of his life and has witnessed Sunnyside’s water struggles first-hand. He was also part of a randomly selected focus group who tested the water for SanEcoTec and the town.
He says the water is much better now.
“It used to be that if you were running the tub or filling the laundry you could smell the chlorine. I like to relax in the bath, and you could smell it and you could smell it on your skin afterwards,” Smith told The Packet.
While not a big water drinker, Smith said he always made sure to sure to boil before drinking.
“Now it’s perfect, you can boil it and get a cup of tea and the water is good,” says Smith.
Smith says the only issue he and others have is that following a weather event the water has some discolouration.
“I understand there is a filtration system they are bringing in and that is the final step,” says Smith.
Smith is quick to point out that Sunnyside has it pretty good compared to some regions in the world.
“It could be a lot worse. We don’t live in a society where we have to conserve water. There’s no meter on the house. It’s reasonably affordable. Compared to other places around, it’s really affordable,” says Smith.
“From my point of view it’s better than it was; I guess that’s what you reach out for. We started out to make it better; and it’s better, thanks to council.”