'No Correlation' Between Hard Water And Leaking Copper Pipes

Posted on Monday, January 29, 2018 23:53 PM

Still no clear indication why more copper pipes are leaking in west Saint John since the city switched to a new well-water source.

But Saint John Water commissioner Brent McGovern says there's no proof it's being caused by the mineral-heavy, hard water.

McGovern told Common Council tonight that many municipalities face similar hard water levels, but don't have this problem.

"In discussions with industry experts, and to my knowledge as well, there has been no correlation — no one in the water industry — of hard water and increased copper pipe failures," says McGovern.

He suspects the leaks are happening because the change in water chemistry is causing scale buildup on aging pipes to dissolve but says it's only a theory at this point.

While the cause of the pipe leaks remains a mystery, one thing seems certain: the city likely won't treat the water at its source, which McGovern says would cost millions of dollars.

"When we look at municipalities across the country, they do not treat drinking water for hardness until it's greater than 300 milligrams per litre," he says. "If they do treat for hardness, it's only reduced to somewhere in the range of essentially where our water is at this time."

Levels in west Saint John levels range from 205 to 233, which McGovern says is similar to many other Canadian municipalities.

West side councillor Greg Norton asked if those levels could increase, and McGovern said they've been stable since the wells were drilled in 2014.

Dalhousie University and CBCL Engineering are trying to figure out why the pipes are breaking and will report back to the city within two months.

In addition to leaky pipes, some west side residents have also complained about a chalky residue on dishes and decreased soap lather.

McGovern says there are no health concerns related to hardness — caused mainly by calcium and magnesium — and the water is safer than when it was coming from Spruce Lake.

He says residents can report issues to the city by calling (506) 658-4455.