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Water plant operator fined for not logging days in chlorine calibration mode

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A water operator at a municipal plant in eastern Ontario — near the Quebec border — has been fined more than $5,000 for adjusting drinking water system settings that prevented the plant from communicating warnings when chlorine levels dropped too low in the winter of 2020. 

Water operator Luc Lamoureux was convicted under the Safe Drinking Water Act for including false or misleading information in a document required to be created, stored, or submitted, such as logs and disinfection records.

According to the Ontario Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks, Lamoureux had been contacted by the Operator in Charge at the secondary water treatment plant about a low chlorine alarm for the drinking water over two days in early January.

Lamoureux responded that the drinking water chlorine level was “good” at the plant. But he had noticed that the ammonia pump at the plant was malfunctioning and there were not enough dosages of ammonia to create a stable combined chlorine level. He immediately reviewed the chemical feed system and restored the proper dosages. He also logged these actions.

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Lamoureux, however, did not record in the plant log books, or any other documentation, that he had kept the plant’s free chlorine analyzer in calibration mode between December 31, 2019, and January 3, 2020. This prevented real-time chlorine readings from being communicated to the system, said the Ontario Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks.

“This would allow the plant to keep operating without an alarm sounding even when the chlorine levels dropped below appropriate levels,” according to the Ontario Court Bulletin.

The system disinfects the water through chlorination then conveys it to a secondary water treatment plant, where it is checked again to ensure that the drinking water meets provincial guidelines. The water is then sent out into the distribution system for use.

The Ministry’s Environmental Investigations and Enforcement Branch investigated and laid charges that resulted in the conviction.

Lamoureux was also issued a victim fine surcharge of $1,250. He has one year to pay the fines. 

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