The British Columbia Village of Burns Lake has a new $5.3-million water treatment plant that will begin to gradually flush out elevated levels of manganese from water lines.
The new plant, which is the Village’s largest-ever infrastructure project, is expected to reduce manganese content in the water to below 0.02 mg per litre, which will be a significant reduction from recent levels that reached 0.35 mg per litre.
Health Canada’s legal limit for manganese was released in 2019 at 0.12 mg per litre, one of the lowest allowable limits in the world. The move pushed communities like Burns Lake to evaluate their water treatment systems, and for some, to rebuild.
“The next months will be frustrating as the manganese breaks loose and flushes out of the system,” public works officials announced in a memo to residents. “The only way to flush the manganese from your service line is through your taps.”
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The Village’s public works crew will be flushing the lines monthly, starting the week of May 10-14.
Village officials said the age and location of homes within the community will mean varying levels of manganese build-up in service lines. As the manganese particles break away from the pipe walls, they warned that residents may experience an increase in “brown water” events.
The public works crew will flush the manganese from the large watermains by opening fire hydrants. Residents that see crews flushing the lines near their home are advised to open up outside taps (garden hose) and leave it on for the duration of the flush.
While a small amount of manganese is essential for human health, Health Canada states that drinking water with too much manganese can be a risk, particularly for young children through consistent exposure. The element (Mn) may also cause discoloration in the water, and laundry, as well as an unpleasant taste.
Manganese can come from rock and soil weathering in the environment, as well as mining, industrial discharges and landfill leaching.
Manganese has been an issue for some other B.C. communities as well. In 2014, Osoyoos piloted a new manganese removal technology at two of its six approved wells, which did successfully eliminate manganese from the water sampled.
In a statement, Burns Lake officials thanked Western Canadian Mechanical, True Engineering, BV Electric, Dale Ross and the public works crew, as well as the numerous local contractors and businesses for their efforts and dedication throughout the water treatment plant’s construction phase.