Water Main Maintenance

Posted on Tuesday May 21, 2019 at 02:21PM

Water mains are underground pipes that carry water from the pumping stations to your street and the service pipes connected to your house.
The goal of the Water main Cleaning Program is to minimize the occurrence of discoloured water and ensure consumers receive the freshest water possible by removing accumulated material from the water mains.
Discoloured water results when iron and manganense, minerals that are naturally present in Oxbow’s groundwater, combine with chlorine to form small rust particles or flakes. These particles normally settle on the bottom of the water main piping. However, these particles can mix with flowing water to cause discoloured water during system maintenance, when water is drawn from hydrants for fire-fighting, and during times of high water use.

The Water main Cleaning Program consists of a combination of water main swabbing and flushing to remove accumulated sediments from the water main piping.

What is water main swabbing and flushing?
Water main swabbing entails inserting a soft material shaped like a bullet into the water main through a fire hydrant. The diameter is slightly larger than the water main and the bullet (swab) is pushed along the water main by water pressure. As it passes through the water main, the swab executes a scouring action on the sediment inside the water main.

During water main flushing, high velocity Town water flowing from hydrants is used to remove loose sediment from water mains.

When does the Town clean water mains?
Water main cleaning is usually done in the spring of the year. Cleaning priorities are driven both by water quality and discoloured water complaints. *As this is the first year reviving the program, we expect there to be a higher than usual amount of sludge accumulated than in a typical one-year period.

How does the Town notify consumers affected by the program?
We use a number of methods to inform consumers of planned water main cleaning and possible discoloured water caused by the program. Notification is done by one or more of the following methods:

  • Hand-delivery of notices to each consumer’s mailbox
  • Advertisements on the local (Estevan) radio stations CJ 1150 and Sun 102
  • Information posted on the Town web site at oxbow.ca and on the Town’s official Facebook page
  • Notices posted at various locations through Town; ie: bank, post office, convenience stores
What should I do when the water main on my street is being cleaned?
Before the water main cleaning on your street begins, you should:
• Fill a clean container with tap water for drinking and cooking and store this container in your fridge;
• Complete dishwashing, clothes washing, and other water use activities prior to 8:00 am on the date your area is scheduled for swabbing;
• Fill your bathtub with water for use around the house;
• Use a pail to transfer water from the bathtub to your toilet bowl to allow your toilet to flush; and
• Turn water softener on bypass or shut off main water supply using internal stop and waste valve.

During the period of water main cleaning on your street, you should:
• Avoid using water, including hot water, as this will likely draw discoloured water into your home’s pipes; and
• Avoid washing clothes or doing dishes as discoloured water may cause stains.
After the water main on your street has been cleaned you should:
• Run the cold, hard (unsoftened) water tap closest to your water meter (usually located in the basement) until the water is clear. Alternatively, if your garden hose provides hard water, you can irrigate your lawn or garden until the water is clear.
• If the water remains discoloured after 10 minutes of flushing, please turn off the tap, wait 60 minutes, and repeat the 10-minute flushing process again. If your water does not clear after 2 hours, please contact the Town of Oxbow Public Works Dept at 306-485-7273 for assistance.
• Call Water Services at 306-485-7273 if you have no water or low water pressure after the water main cleaning has been completed.
• If your water is clear, turn on your water treatment or softening devices, flush each tap, if necessary, to remove discoloured water from your pipes, flush your toilets during normal use to remove discoloured water from your toilet tank, and resume normal use including drinking the water and clothes washing.

Where does the sediment in the water mains come from?
The sediment present in Oxbow’s water mains consists mostly of a combination of iron and manganese oxides. When these fine particles are mixed and suspended in water, they cause discolouration that is often described as brown, red, yellow or black water.

Iron and manganese oxides are formed when chlorine combines with the dissolved iron and manganese minerals naturally present in Oxbow’s groundwater. These oxides are heavy and will settle-out on the bottom of water main piping during periods of normal water use. The settled particles are stirred up to form discoloured water when a larger demand for water use occurs or when maintenance is being performed on the system.

Can I drink the water?
The Town recommends that consumers do not consume discoloured water but wait instead until the normal clarity of their water returns.

Samples of discolored water have been analyzed and although it may not smell, taste, or look pleasant, tests have shown that it is safe. Drinking small quantities of discoloured water is not likely to cause a health problem. The most common element in discoloured water is iron, a nutrient found normally in many foods. For consumers with iron storage disorders, additional iron in drinking water could present a health risk. These individuals should avoid drinking discoloured water and consult their physicians for additional information.

In compliance with Provincial regulations, the Town continuously maintains a disinfectant residual in all water supplied to ensure consumer safety. We work closely with the Saskatchewan Health Authority and Water Security Agency on all matters pertaining to the safety of municipal drinking water.

What should I do if my laundry becomes stained by discoloured water?
If you are washing clothes and receive discoloured water, stop the cycle while it is tank is full and wait until clear water is available to finish. If the spin cycle has finished, then keep the clothes wet and rewash them when clear water is available. If you wash your stained clothes using a commercial rust remover, then follow the directions on the rust remover label to avoid damaging your clothes.

Is flushing my pipes to remove discoloured water costing me money?
At current water and sewer rates, a consumer in Oxbow pays approximately $.03 per gallon for every minute that a tap runs.

*Planned Service Disruption Areas are illustrated below. These are subject to change; You will be notified of any changes by posting on the Town’s Facebook page, website, and they will be announced on CJ 1150 and Sun 102-Estevan


Author: Town of Oxbow


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