Starting today, the PUC will be commencing the East End Water Quality Survey it announced earlier this summer. The purpose of the short survey is to identify the pockets of homes in the east end that are still experiencing water quality issues.
This will help PUC develop its Annual Watermain Relining Program. Watermain relining is a proven technique used by utilities across the world to address water quality concerns in localized areas. Not only does the relining process address quality issues in the immediate vicinity, but relining old cast-iron watermains can extend the life of the mains. Therefore, to determine which watermains would be suitable for future relining projects, the PUC hopes to contact every household in the east end to get their feedback on current water quality issues.
“We understand that some customers might view another survey as redundant – but we couldn’t disagree more,” says Giordan Zin, PUC Supervisor of Customer Engagement. “In the past, the Ipsos-Reid survey results have been based on a representative sample from each Ward; this method gave us an idea of what the overall opinion on water quality was across the city. The purpose of this new survey isn’t to be a representative sample of the east end’s opinion on water quality, but rather, to get a comprehensive snapshot of where issues still exist, specifically in the East End”.
In addition to surveys, the PUC collects valuable customer feedback data via its Customer Care Center. This data is another tool the PUC uses to monitor customer reaction to the changes made to the water treatment processes last year with the introduction of the Water Quality Improvement Project’s advanced treatment methods. For example, from 2014 to 2015, PUC’s Customer Care Center reported the number of residents contacting the PUC with concerns or complaints related to water quality fell by 88%.
“Yes, I acknowledge that some people may have stopped calling PUC to report water quality issues because they felt nothing happened when they did – but I can assure you, those calls are critical to us,” says, Zin. PUC knows that communication with its customers is a vital part of the strategy for resolving water quality issues. For example, good communication with consumers affords PUC the ability to immediately track shifts in water quality and make changes to distribution system activity to reduce discoloured water occurrences in the future.
“We want to reach out to the entire East End because we care about the city’s water quality. Additionally, we are concerned that we may not have heard from all customers in the area, and we want to ensure all customers have a chance to provide their input,” says, Zin. “While the Ipsos-Reid survey found that statistically both satisfaction and acceptability with the quality of the city’s drinking water is trending positively – we fully recognize more needs to be done to address customers’ concerns. The Watermain Relining Program is just that, another tool we can use to address concerns. Relining is a long-term solution that will provide incremental improvement with each section of watermain that is treated.”
While relying on the feedback from customers is important, it is not the only metric used to determine relining locations. For example, only unlined ductile iron or cast iron watermains are being considered for relining. Other factors include the size, depth, and condition of the watermain and service lines, and whether the watermain is included in the city’s near-term road reconstruction plan. Customers can expect more information on the relining project in the coming weeks. Additionally, the PUC would like to remind customers to contact PUC Customer Care should they experience discoloured water or any unusual change in water quality.
PUC staff, as opposed to a polling firm, will conduct the East End Water Quality Survey with the intention being to try to contact every household in the East End and ask them about water quality in their area. This survey is a significant undertaking and is expected to take several months to complete. The PUC would like to remind customers that updating their account information is the best way to ensure they are contacted for the survey. Customers can call PUC Customer Care at 705-759-6522 to speak with a representative who can update their account information. While this survey is directed to East End residents, PUC encourages any resident who wishes to participate in the survey to call PUC and have their voice heard.