Operator Q&A

Through our webinars, classes, and e-mail, we’ve received an absolutely fantastic variety of questions. You’ve asked, and we’ve answered! You can now easily search through our archive of questions and answers. We also update this section regularly with the answers our webinar and in-house experts have given to all your most pressing questions. 

Protecting ground water and surface water follow similar guidelines. The source to tap guide line from the BC Ministry of Health will show you how to delineate you surface source in your water shed. The trick with surface sources is that you don’t own the land around your intake. So it’s more about community engagement and partnerships (crown / provincial ministries). But the concepts are similar. 

It will depend on the depth of your water main burial and the intensity of heat from the fire. 

Over two feet depth you should be OK. However, fire hydrants that are metal can conduct heat and create localized damage. 

Yes, you could be mobilizing bacteria around the well. If you have a GARP assessment you can help in your understanding of the risk for pathogens. 

Yes. But we aren’t concerned by that. 

We have found that trace amounts of lubricant invariably ends up getting on the UV sleeve where it inhibits the transmission of UV light thereby reducing UV dose and potentially triggering UV alarms. I agree that the sleeves can be a bit difficult to remove. If you use lubricant, I would suggest going as light as possible and being very careful to not incidentallyallow any lubricant residuals to get on the main area of the sleeve during sleeve cleaning.

VIQUA specifically recommends strongly against use of lubricant on the sleeves so extreme care would need to be taken to prevent accidental sleeve fouling.

Maybe. Concrete can absorb organic chemicals. 

If the concrete comes into contact with a contaminant like melted plastics you might get some absorption of the organic chemical in the plastics. 

Yes, a construction permit may be required. I’d recommend that you contact the public health engineer to discuss the permit requirements. The public health engineer can waive the need to a construction permit for simple repairs. 

The Environmental Operators Certification Program is the certifying organization for all Water and Waste Water operators. A Drinking Water Officer may require that a certified operator operate a water system. However, if no requirement is made for a certified operator a non certified operator may operate the water system. 

Not necessarily. Work with your Drinking Water Officer or Ground Water Officer to start. The closer a contaminant is to a well increases risk. Focus on the 100 meter circumference for a well to identify hazards. This will help you identify the most high risk hazards

It depends on your connectivity to the surface. Get a full chemical comprehensive test. Nitrates can sometimes be one of the chemicals of concern. 

Yes, pH should affect absorption.

Email the Online Help Centre. They can help you find a local hydrogeologists in BC.

Finding the right person(s) to help you is important. They should have experience with Interior Health’s permitting process and understand the Drinking Water Treatment Objectives. You may be able to find a specialist using an internet search of “Drinking Water Treatment Designer/ or Specialist”, or “Water System Design Engineer”.

A specialist can prepare and submit the Construction Permit Application along with a treatment design. The treatment design includes a description of how the treatment will work. Submitting a complete application with all required documents will speed up the process for approval. Hiring qualified and well-informed people to install the treatment and distribution systems is very important.

Approval of your water system may take several months. 

There are three main steps in approval: 

  1. Source Assessment
  2. Construction Permit
  3. Operating Permit. 

Typically a water supplier should talk to their DWO. Once a plan is submitted for construction and a construction permit is issued; the water supplier has one year for completion of construction. 

If your water contains or may contain harmful pathogens, chemicals or metals, you need to know how much money it will cost to fix these problems. 

Water system treatment or upgrades can cost several thousand dollars and up depending on what is needed. Also, there are ongoing maintenance and operating costs that come with keeping water safe to drink.

There isn’t good evidence either way for a difference in adsorption of VOC and SVOC’s.

You should just assume contamination and test appropriately.

A pressure tank is not storage its for providing run time on a pump.  A pump doesn’t like to turn on and off. The pressure tank is only there for the longevity of the pump. Cisterns are sized according to your need. Determining size for storage for a house using  1 gallon per minute is 1440 gallons of water per day. But with updates water conservation you could potentially run at ½ a gallon per minute. 

Treatment: most engineers will want treatment after storage unless you need to use chlorine for treatment. Chlorine requires contact time which means a tank maybe needed. 

This is subject to a lot of debate. 

In my personal opinion, and I think most people now agree with this, it is best immediately after the UV chamber. In theory, when an alarm event is triggered or there is a power failure and the solenoid closes, there are some pathogens inside the UV chamber that have not been fully treated. Since they can “swim”, it would be possible for them to swim downstream into the distribution pipe if there were not a physical barrier (the closed solenoid) valve on the outlet. This risk is minimal for short outages but could be more meaningful as downtime increases. 

There is at least one advantage to having the solenoid on the inlet side though (at least for some models)…. In the event that the sleeve ever shattered, water would contact the lamp, short out the lamp, cause and alarm which would close the solenoid of course. If the solenoid was on the inlet side, it would prevent a water leak from occurring. In my view, using a solenoid as a leak detection shut-off is not really what it was intended for so I prefer to use it for the very best level of pathogen protection as possible on the outlet side. I do recognize that there are differing opinions on this. For short outages, it would likely make no difference, but for longer outages, outlet side is better IMO.

This is very high and would be objectionable to most people drinking the water due to taste/smell. 

However, there may be some valid reasons why you have been advised to run the chlorine levels so high. 

For instance, if you have a limited amount of chlorine contact time between the chlorine injection point and the point where water is consumed, to compensate for the limited time, you may need to run a higher concentration so the chlorine can still be effective at disinfection. 

In some cases, where distribution systems are extensive and flow rates are low at the end of the distribution lines, there can be a lot of free chlorine loss from the injection point to the end of the line. Higher injection concentrations may be required to overcome these loses. 

We try to keep free chlorine under 1 ppm in most system designs to make the water more acceptable to consumer taste and smell preferences, but there are valid reasons why it may need to be higher to meet heath objectives.

“Pathogens” are bacteria, protozoa or viruses that can cause disease or even death in an infected individual. 

Water sample labs do not test for every kind of pathogen. For example, viruses are very difficult to test for. The best way to determine the level of harm in the water is for an Environmental Health Officer to do a Level 1 Source Assessment. This assessment looks at water quality changes, flooding, run-off, and agriculture/human activity. If your Environmental Health Officer determines your water is Ground Water at Risk of Containing Pathogens you will need to meet treatment levels set out by the Ministry of Health (Treatment Objectives). 

Contact you DWO to discuss next step and commissioning of your treatment. You may need a permit application for the operation of the water system

Vinegar is not generally recommended as it contains organics which can absorb UV light. Any residuals left on the sleeve can reduce UV transmission. As an acid, it does help remove hard water deposits though and it is far from the worst thing you could be using. CLR is better though as it is a non-organic acid and a bit more powerful.

This was a devastating event. There are major concerns. IH is the regulator who worked with Merritt to get them off the Do Not Consume notice and then off the Boil Water Notice. 

The role of the hydrogeologist was to help Merritt staff understand the contaminants of concern. The source to tap assessment and source protection planning concepts were used. They looked at all the hazards present and found the hazards were the same as the pre-flood hazards. The flood did inundate the full 200 day time of travel capture zone but because we understood the majority of groundwater in the Merritt setting was coming from a losing stream setting that that kilometers up gradient. There is an amazing filtration that happens just naturally in a ground water system. We weren’t worried about any new contaminants that the ground water system wasn’t already managing and we looked at the likelihood of occurrence so we what hazards are presented and were that any new hazards present. We looked at the risk ranking. The well were inspected and took all lot of samples. Based on the information we had several recommendations they worked through.

Merritt was lucky they had multiple wells. Merritt closed down some wells and switch to further away wells. Going forward they will look at the pump building and raising the well casing even more. They will make sure the air valve is above the 200 year flood and make sure the electrical is above the 200 year flood. Generally, ground water is very well protected in times of flood. 

  • Nitrates are very persistent in aquifers.
  • Viruses and protozoa for GARP wells.
  • Sodium is of interest from roads and sidewalks.
  • Hydrocarbons are of interests as we see them everywhere. 

Water suppliers should have well logs, water chemistry reports, log books, as builts as good to have. 

A “water system” supplies water for drinking, cleaning, washing dishes, making food, and for bathrooms. 

If you have a food business and/or your water supply has more than one connection, you need to provide safe water at all times. And, you need a permit. 

Typically the free chlorine residual in distribution is based on your CT calculation. 

We expect free chlorine levels dissipate over time. However, 0.2 mg/l (ppm) free chlorine is recommended in distribution at the consumer tap.  You should be able to chart what is normal for that sampling spot. If the chlorine falls suddenly it’s time to investigate the cause and flush. 

Very little it’s best to hire a qualified professional. The Ground Water Protection Regulations require a qualified professional for all work on the well. 

Most common risk is you have lost the ability for storage and interception of that water. Surface water run-off will be an issue.

  • Bacteria (total coliforms and E. Coli)
  • Chemical test for VoC’s. 

Ask your local authority so as to help you understand some of things you should test for. 

Daily: check your pump house and well. Make sure the well is secure. 

Weekly / monthly: Measure amp load if you can, write down water flow. Measure how much water you are using. 

6 months / 1 yr: Chemical sample and ask a QP about what you may need.

Rule of thumb is one meter a day in sand and gravel aquifers. 

If you are trying to monitor for that time frame monitoring every three month to see if you get any change.

Yes, you are correct. mg/l and ppm are the same. 1 mg/l = 1 ppm

Any water systems that experiences disruption to regular operations, such as loss of treatment, loss of pressure, loss of power, loss of source or loss of system integrity should implement their emergency response procedures immediately.

This includes issuing public notifications such as boil water notices, water quality advisories or do not use orders, as appropriate. Prior to resuming normal operations, water suppliers should undertake remedial actions such as flushing, disinfection and re-sampling as required.

Following construction, after altering the well or doing maintenance or a repair on the well. Also, if the well has tested positive for bacteria such as E.coli or total coliforms.

TRU offers courses on water treatment which included green sand filter. Please contact TRU. 

Pump installers, geophysicist or hydrogeologist can provide this service, but data loggers will give you some more information that can be helpful in trending data. 

Any alterations, changes or maintenance need to be completed by a qualified well driller or pump installer.

A Construction Permit lets you construct or make changes to the water system. Water treatment is also included in this approval. This process can take 60 days depending on: 

  • The amount of detail provided in the application, and 
  • How complex the design is. 

Remember that your Construction Permit needs to be approved before construction begins, so start the process as soon as possible. 

Take samples quarterly and after extreme events. Time your sampling for both routine and after events. The time for change in the aquifer depends on aquifers soil characteristics. Shallow wells or wells in unconfined aquifer can see changes rapidly.