Seasonal algae growth affecting Winnipeg's tap waterWINNIPEG - July 22, 2003 - "As a result of algae growth in Winnipeg's water supply, some residents are noticing an unusual taste and odour in their tap water," says Diane Sacher, Acting Manager of the City's Water Services. "This is a condition we can experience each year. The proposed water treatment plant, which is scheduled to be operating in 2007, will reduce odour levels in tap water, as well as improve the overall quality of Winnipeg water", says Sacher.
Algae are plants that live in lakes and other bodies of water. Shoal Lake, Winnipeg's water source, always contains various types of algae. When conditions are favourable, usually in the summer, the algae can grow in abundance, in what is called an "algae bloom". Algal blooms can cause our water to have an unpleasant taste, and smell swampy or musty. Algae could be a factor until late fall.
Dr. Margaret Fast, Medical Officer of Health with the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority says, "These tastes and odours may be distasteful, but algae normally found in Winnipeg's water supply are not known to cause adverse health effects. Residents can continue to use the water, and there is no need to take special precautions."
Only a few dozen of the many thousands of species of algae produce a toxin that may be of health concern at high levels. Winnipeg water is routinely tested during the summer season for microcystin-LR, which is one of the toxins of concern. All the results of the samples taken during the years 2000 to 2002 were below the detection level for the toxin. The detection level is well below the recommended Canadian drinking water guideline. This year, monitoring for microcystin-LR started in late March, and the results are still below the detection level. The monitoring program will continue until late fall.
Seasonal Algae Growth Affecting Winnipeg's Tap Water
Increased algae growth can also cause water treatment devices and water tap strainers and aerators to plug up more frequently. A build-up of sediment may also occur in hot water tanks. Residents are encouraged to perform regular maintenance on these appliances to ensure they continue to function satisfactorily.
Water filters and other home water treatment devices with this certification on their label can improve the taste and odour of tap water:
ANSI/NSF Standard No. 42 for the reduction of taste and odour.
For more information on Winnipeg's water, residents can:
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