Water Quality Monitoring
Curing a Contamination Crisis in Canada
Case Study / 5 min read
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Water Quality Monitoring
Case Study / 5 min read
Residents reported taste and odor issues in their drinking water, and testing revealed a fuel-like compound was the cause of the contamination.
Weekly testing for petroleum hydrocarbons in the water, using 11 different parameters, has helped to restore consumer confidence in Iqaluit’s water supply.
Home to approximately 7,500 residents, the drinking water system in Iqaluit is unique because of its use of an above ground utilidor to keep pipes from freezing in the winter. To address the contamination event, several challenges—including the remote location of the community, the ongoing effects of the pandemic and heavy winter storms that threatened to shut down key operations for days at a time—meant that a solution to this drinking water crisis would need to be found fast. A precautionary “Do Not Consume” order was issued by the Chief Public Health Officer, and officials got to work on finding the source of the contamination.
Aquatic Life Ltd., a leading provider of water monitoring solutions, collaborated with an engineering team from WSP of Canada to identify the source of the contamination. Using an s::can spectrometer from Badger Meter, Aquatic Life and WSP chemists calibrated the device to measure for petroleum hydrocarbons. The micro::station, equipped with an online spectrometer (spectro::lyser V3), delivered real-time monitoring of hydrocarbon contamination, while the custom calibrations allowed for precise analysis and detection of contaminants.
This solution successfully identified the source of the contamination: a leaking underground fuel tank in the Iqaluit Water Treatment Plant, with fuel diffusing through the concrete into the water tanks. WSP engineers promptly bypassed the contaminated water tanks and performed a network wide flushing campaign, successfully curbing the contamination. By incorporating advanced technologies and leveraging extensive water monitoring expertise, Aquatic Life and WSP delivered prompt response to a public health crisis and enabled optimal process control.
Prior to implementing the Badger Meter monitoring solution, it took a third-party lab up to one week to return results on water samples taken at the treatment plant, meaning the utility and Iqaluit residents were living and working with old water quality data. The implementation of an online spectrometer helped the City of Iqaluit analyze water quality in real-time, ensuring rapid response to hydrocarbon contamination events.
The s::can system also runs grab samples. Utility operations staff can take a sample from anywhere within the distribution system and get immediate results, reducing reliance on third-party labs and accelerating the turnaround time for action as needed. Over the course of the investigation into the contamination, 500 grab samples were screened. These samples provided critical insights into various processes and conditions in the network, and the collected data was used to establish an extensive records database. These results are now hosted on the city’s website, as part of efforts to enhance transparency and rebuild the credibility of the water treatment plant (WTP).
The contamination problem and solution also led to a holistic review of the plant process with engineers, who added additional monitoring to replace legacy systems. Today, micro::stations are in use at the plant inlet and final treated water outlet, along with a pre-reservoir monitoring point for enhanced process control. These online monitoring stations are seamlessly integrated with SCADA and PLC systems, allowing remote access, optimal process control, alarming and support.
In addition to hydrocarbon monitoring, the systems also track parameters such as turbidity, organics, color, chlorine, UVT, UV254, pH, fluoride, temperature and spectral alarms. This level of integration ensures robust regulatory compliance with enhanced parameter sets that provide a broader understanding of water quality entering and leaving the facility. The system has remote connectivity, which allows for easy support between service visits.
One key component of the project was the development of highly sensitive algorithms with custom calibrations based on sample data, employing an extended pathlength for superior detection capabilities. This customized hydrocarbon fingerprinting analysis helped identify similarities between samples, pinpointing potential contamination sources.
This fingerprinting analysis was used to distinguish different types of contamination, minimize false positives and enable precise identification of the source of contamination. In response, WSP worked with the city to remove the contaminant and associated fuel tank.
However, three months later, an additional contamination event was detected by the custom calibrations on the spectrometer. This contaminant was a heavier hydrocarbon and was traced back to a concrete sealing compound, originally used in the construction of a tank that had since deteriorated. Due to the early detection, the engineering team was able to implement a bypass pipe through the plant, preventing another large-scale interruption of service event.
“There were a lot of unknowns at the beginning of the crisis, Steven Simpson, Head of Projects and Solutions with Aquatic Life Ltd. said. “The spectro::lyser gave us real-time decision-making information to restore the water supply and protect the plant moving forward. All things considered, it's a small investment to make to protect the public and we're glad to see other plants adopting this technology after the fact. The Badger Meter team was exceptionally helpful in assisting the Aquatic Life and WSP team over the course of the project with custom algorithms and technical support.”
Today, weekly testing for petroleum hydrocarbons in the water, using 11 different parameters—as well as all other daily and weekly water quality monitoring and testing as required by legislation—has helped to restore consumer confidence in Iqaluit’s water supply.