Chemical turns Alberta town’s drinking water pink
Potassium permanganate, which the town of Onoway, Alta. uses in weekly wash of filters at the water treatment plant; the chemical is a skin irritant but officials say the water is safe to drink and will soon return to normal
ONOWAY, Alta.—Residents in a small town northwest of Edmonton say bright pink water coming out of their taps was a bit of a shock.
Vicki Veldhuyzen Van Zanten of Onoway says she got a call from a neighbour asking if her water was pink.
It wasn’t, but a short time later her daughter called her from the bathroom to see purple water coming out of the taps.
It later turned a bright pink, and Veldhuyzen Van Zanten said she posted on a town Facebook page and found hundreds of others were experiencing the same thing.
Onoway Mayor Dale Krasnow posted a message Tuesday on the town’s official website saying the public is safe and was not at any risk.
The town was doing its weekly wash of filters at the water treatment plant using potassium permanganate, which turns water pink when used in large quantities, when it got into the water distribution system, he said.
“Please be advised that public works along with two representatives from Alberta Environment have completed their assessment of the potassium permanganate incident and preliminary indications point to a problem with the automations and/or valves at the Water Treatment Plant during the back washing of the filters,” Krasnow said.
“Further investigation will take place to determine the exact cause and repairs required.”
Krasnow said it wasn’t due to operator error.
The town drained its water reservoir and all lines have been flushed, but there may be some residual colour in some systems, the mayor said, adding property owners may need to run their water for a few minutes to clear their service lines.
“Could the town have done a better job of communicating what was going on yesterday to our community? Absolutely, without a doubt,” Krasnow said in the post.
“And we do apologize for that. This is a situation we can certainly learn from and develop a strategy for better response and communication should we ever face the same or similar situation in the future.”
Alberta Health Services says the pink water is safe to drink.
“Individuals with sensitive skin may wish to use an alternate source of water for bathing, at this time, due to small but potential risk for temporary skin irritation,” AHS spokeswoman Shannon Evans said in an email.
She said AHS continues to work with Alberta Environment and the town of Onoway.
Veldhuyzen Van Zanten said she wouldn’t drink the water, even if officials say it is safe. She said the water is clear coming out of her cold water taps, but not the hot water taps.
“It was weird. I just didn’t use it, I had leftovers, I put what we had in the microwave, I didn’t need water to make supper. But I’m sure other people had issues.
“It was very, very pink.”