Frequently Asked Water Questions

Is my tap water safe to drink?

To ensure the quality of our water, we test the water continuously during and after treatment. In fact, we conduct more tests than required by regulation. We use the necessary chemicals to treat the water, including chlorine to kill E.coli and other harmful bacteria that may be present. A small (and harmless) amount of chlorine is left in the water to ensure its continued safety as it travels to you. If we are concerned about the quality of water, we immediately notify the Chatham-Kent Medical Officer of Health and the Ministry of Environment.

What could cause my tap water to look dirty?

Your tap water may look dirty for the following reasons:

  • plugged water softeners
  • old galvanized piping in buildings
  • dirty water problems can be caused by a wide variety of factors, including hydrant use by the Chatham-Kent Fire Department, hydrant flushing or water main repairs by the Chatham-Kent Public Works Department, a change in the direction or in the rate of flow of water in the pipes (e.g., due to a water main break or leak) which stirs up sediment at the bottom of the pipes and/or rust from cast iron water mains

If you notice coloured water when you turn on your hot water taps, you likely need to drain the sediment at the bottom of your hot water tank. Do this by placing a container under the hot water tank's faucet and allow the tank to empty for about one minute. Repeat this procedure monthly to prevent further build-up of sediment.

What could cause my tap water to appear cloudy?

At times during the year, you may find that your tap water appears cloudy. It is usually caused by dissolved air, which is released in the form of fine bubbles when cold water becomes warmer. These air bubbles give the water its cloudy appearance. To confirm this, pour some cold water into a glass and observe. You should notice the air bubbles gradually disappear from the bottom of the glass upwards. If your hot water appears cloudy, the water is probably too hot. To solve this problem, lower the temperature setting on your hot water tank.

What could cause my tap water to have a taste/odour?

Chatham-Kent's water system draws from numerous sources, including surface water and groundwater. These water sources may have an odour, which varies seasonally and is caused by the growth of plants and algae in the raw water source.
Our treatment process removes most of the natural odour and it is rarely detected in cold tap water, but might be noticeable in warmer water. The odour is not a health concern. If you are sensitive to this taste/odour, try keeping a jug of fresh, cold water in the refrigerator for drinking and cooking. Carbon filters can also be used to remove taste/odour but must be carefully maintained.
If you notice a "swampy" or "sulphur" odour when using the bathroom faucets, it may be caused by decaying hair, dirt and debris that is caught in the drain and releasing an odour when you run your water. To confirm this, fill a glass with cold water and take it immediately to another room in the house. If this water is odourless, the odour is coming from your drain. To correct the problem, pour a small amount of baking soda, followed by vinegar down the drain. Wait a couple of minutes and then run your cold-water tap for one minute.

Why can I taste or smell chlorine in my water?

Many people are able to taste or smell extremely low concentrations of chlorine in water and may be able to detect it in our water system. We have to maintain an adequate chlorine level at every customer tap to ensure the safety of the water and to meet regulations.

How do I get rid of the chlorine taste and smell in my water?

An easy way to get rid of the taste and smell of chlorine is to fill an uncovered glass container of water and keep it in the fridge for drinking. Much of the chlorine will leave the water overnight.

Where can I get information that is more detailed on water quality?

Visit the Ministry of Environment, Conservation & Parks website.

Where can I get more information on Chatham-Kent's drinking water quality?

Review our Drinking Water Annual and Summary Reports.

Are there restrictions on water use within Chatham-Kent?

The Public Utilities Commission approved a policy for water use restrictions for ALL customers supplied with water from the Chatham-Kent water supply systems. Water Restriction/Reduction Policy includes:

  • Lawn watering, all irrigation uses and all other non-essential uses of the potable water supply.
  • Houses that are odd-numbered will be allowed to water on odd-numbered days.
  • Houses that are even-numbered will be allowed to water on even-numbered days.
  • There will be a 2 month grace period for newly sodded lawns.

What is wastewater?

Wastewater or sewage is water, plus whatever is added, that drains from your home's sinks, toilets, bathtubs and washing machines. People also create wastewater at work. Offices, businesses and manufacturers create not only domestic wastewater but also can create wastewater combined with the discharge associated with a manufacturing process or service.

What do wastewater treatment plants do?

Wastewater treatment plants clean our wastewater and prevent contaminants from getting into the environment. When wastewater enters a treatment facility, bar screens catch and remove trash and large objects. Grit chambers then remove heavy particles like gravel, seeds and coffee grounds. The wastewater then flows through large settling tanks called clarifiers that allow any remaining heavy particles to settle to the bottom. After the primary clarifiers, the liquid portion flows into anaerobic, anoxic and oxic basins where naturally occurring microorganisms consume the pollutants. The wastewater then flows into final clarifiers where the microorganisms settle out and are returned to the basins. The flow now goes through filters and then is disinfected before the treated water is returned to the creek or river. The solids, which have been removed from the water portion, are pumped to digesters that heat, treat and turn it into organic matter known as "biosolids." These biosolids are used to fertilize permitted farmland.

What is raw sewage? 

Raw sewage is mainly gray or black water. It often contains the organic waste and wastewater produced by household and industrial sources. It can contain everything from soap to solid waste, human excrement, industrial effluent and debris.

What causes the blockage in my sewer?

There are three main causes for pipes and sewer blockages:

  1. Solid Flushes - The most common cause of sewage backup is a blockage of the lateral service pipe between the home and the municipal main. This is usually caused by solid objects, accidentally flushed down a household drain.

  2. Structural Defects - Different structural defects can develop over time and eventually cause major damage to the system, leading to a serious overflow that will require a complete reconstruction of sewer lines.

  3. Root Infiltration - Tree roots are a major cause of backups. Tree roots can enter the service pipe at joints and travel a long way, causing blockages along the way.

How can I prevent sewage backups?

There are six (6) basic sewage backup prevention techniques:

  1. Inspection - Hire a professional to perform a sewer inspection. This procedure will provide you with an accurate report on your sewer's condition. Sewer inspections will also help with finding roots and structural damage to your sewer lines, allowing you to make necessary repairs before you experience a sewage backup.

  2. Make Repairs - Do not overlook any problems in the sewer lines. For example; if you experience slow drainage after using the bathroom, then there must be something stopping the water from draining properly. Hire a professional to fix the problem immediately.

  3. Maintenance - Maintain your sewer system properly by avoiding flushing large objects such as diapers and feminine products down the toilet.

  4. Backwater Prevention Valve - Install a backwater prevention valve. A backwater valve is a fixture installed into your sewer line and into a drain line in the basement to prevent sewer backups. A backwater valve works on a one-way system; sewage can be flushed out, but cannot flow back.

  5. Grease - When grease goes down the drain, it eventually cools off and solidifies either in the drain or in the sewer. When this happens, the line constricts and eventually clogs.

  6. Roots - Be careful when planting trees and bushes around your sewer line. If you have problems with tree roots, you may have to have them cut periodically.

What is Thermal Inversion or 'Lake Turnover?'

Lake turnover is the mixing of layers of water that occurs naturally in spring and fall, as the top layers heat or cool faster than the bottom layers. Seasonal temperature changes in lakes may cause a turnover condition that can promote algae growth.
Algae occur naturally in lakes and streams. Some species may impart earthy, musty or mouldy odours to the water. Decaying organic material, such as dead leaves or aquatic plants and algae often cause swampy, grassy, woody or septic tastes or odours. When the lake 'turns over,' these tastes are imparted to the raw water supply and can come through in the treated drinking water.

How does Thermal Inversion or 'Lake Turnover' impact me?

For facilities utilizing a surface water supply like Lake Erie, by-products of algae growth are typically the main cause of taste and odour problems in the drinking water. During the summer months, algae populations flourish in the upper elevations of the lake. As the ageing algae die to make way for the new, it creates by-product substances that give off taste and odour. This is often perceived as an earthy or musty taste in the drinking water supply.

What can be done about the taste and odour problem?

Where treatment facility design allows, the addition of carbon used to treat the water is increased to absorb some of the taste and odour. At facilities with a different design, the water is filtered through a special activated carbon filter in the treatment plant.
At your home, running the water until it is really cold before drinking will help alleviate some of the taste and odour. Also, filling a glass container from the cold water tap and storing it uncovered in the refrigerator for several hours before consumption can help reduce the taste and odour.

What is blue-green algae and does it affect drinking water?

For further information on Blue-Green Algae, please email or call 519-436-0119.