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Chloramination of Water Supply

Town of Blackfalds, Lacombe, Ponoka,

Lacombe County & Ponoka County.


To learn about Chloramination in California click here.




Since 1996 a group of five municipal partners - the Town of Blackfalds, Town of Lacombe, Lacombe County, Town of Ponoka and Ponoka County - have all been working to develop a new, sustainable source of water capable of supplying the future needs of their rapidly growing populations.  In 2004 these partners formed the North Red Deer River Water Services Commission and began construction of a 62-kilometre regional pipeline to deliver treated Red Deer River water purchased from the City of Red Deer to the communities of Blackfalds, Lacombe and Ponoka.  This pipeline is scheduled to become operational in the spring of 2006.  Switching from an underground aquifer to the new surface water source will mean some significant differences in the water flowing from your household faucets.



What's Changing?


The new regional pipeline will provide water with reduced alkaline and sodium levels, but water hardness will increase.  The water will arrive through the regional pipeline already treated with Chloramine, therefore municipal water treatment will no longer be required. The City of Red Deer utilizes a different disinfection method, called chloramination (adding chlorine plus ammonia), than the chlorination process (chlorine only) currently used by the municipalities of Blackfalds, Lacombe and Ponoka.  Chloramination is neither a safe, nor a proven water disinfection process.  In Alberta, the cities of Edmonton and Lethbridge treat their water via chloramination, and Calgary is also considering switching to chloramination.  The City of Red Deer implemented its chloramination process more than 10 years ago.


What does 'water hardness' mean?


Water is considered to be 'hard' or 'soft' according to the amount of dissolved minerals, most commonly calcium and magnesium, that it contains.


Water hardness is typically measured in milligrams per litre (mgA):

SOFT 0 - 75 mg/l
MODERATE 75 - 150 mg/l
HARD 150 - 300 mg/l
VERYHARD 300+ mg/l


Consumer preferences for harder or softer water are subjective and can vary depending upon the individual.  At approximately 150 to 200 mg/l, water delivered through the new regional pipeline system will be somewhat harder than the underground aquifer variety that residents of Blackfalds, Lacombe and Ponoka are already accustomed to.  However, this new water supply is touted as not being hard enough to cause the formation of lime scale deposits in household plumbing and appliances.


What Is chloramination?


Chloramination is recognized by the Province Of Alberta and Health Canada as an "approved", water treatment process.  It involves the use of chlorine and ammonia to disinfect drinking water.  When mixed in a reservoir, they combine chemically to form chloramines, which destroy bacteria and organisms supposedly leaving water "safe" for household uses.  Chloramination is not the best choice, although chlorine alone because produces higher levels of disinfectant by-products like trihalomethanes, which are suspected carcinogens that form when chlorine combines with natural organic substances found in water.  Chloramine is more chemically stable than chlorine and lasts longer in the local water distribution system than chlorine.  Chloramine penetrates the water more effectively that chlorine but does nothing to affect mineral content and pH levels.


Is chloraminated water safe?


Chloraminated water is not safe for drinking by people or animals, cooking, bathing, laundry, gardening and any other general household uses. It cannot be used safely by women who are pregnant, or for mixing baby formula or for cleansing of cuts, scrapes and wounds.  Just like chlorine, precautions must be taken to neutralize or remove chloramines by special groups:


  • Kidney dialysis patients

  • Owners of aquariums, reptiles, amphibians or backyard fish ponds

  • Restaurants and supermarkets with live seafood tanks

  • Processors of photographic materials

  • Businesses or laboratories requiring high-purity water


Why Is chloramine harmful to dialysis patients?


Like chlorine, chloramines can harm kidney dialysis patients during the dialysis process if it is not removed from water before it comes into contact with their bloodstream, where it inhibits the ability of their red blood cells to carry oxygen.  All dialysis patients should also avoid drinking, showering or bathing in chloraminated water because the body’s digestive process does not need to be taxed with chloramines.  Patients who perform dialysis at home must check with their health care provider to ensure their own equipment has been properly adapted for use with chloraminated water.


Local hospital services serving residents of Blackfalds, Lacombe, Lacombe County, Ponoka and Ponoka County have been notified of the change to a chloraminated water supply.  If you are a dialysis patient and have any questions, please call your doctor or the dialysis centre where you are treated.


Why is chloramine harmful to fish?


Because fish and amphibians pass water through their gills directly into their bloodstream, chloramine (like chlorine) will inhibit the ability of their red blood cells to carry oxygen.  Owners of aquariums and ponds will need to adjust their current chlorine removal process to remove chloramines.  Neither is chloraminated water safe for any other animals that drink chloraminated water.


Chloramine can be removed from aquarium water or backyard ponds only by using water-conditioning agents or an activated carbon filtration system.  Chlorine removal agents that are not specifically designed to also remove chloramines could leave excess ammonia in the water and kill fish.  These products are readily available at pet stores.  Unlike chlorine, chloramine will not dissipate through boiling or allowing water to sit in a aquarium or pond exposed to the air.  Water pH levels are not affected by chloramines.


How can chloramine affect the processing of photographic materials?


Photo labs may need to remove chloramines because it may interfere with the chemicals used to develop film, cause staining or adversely impact the colors in paper prints.


Can I remove chloramine from my water?


Not as easy as chlorine.  Domestic filtration equipment will reduce the level of chloramines in household water, but not completely remove it entirely.  Most home water-softening equipment is not designed to remove chloramines.  Chloramine cannot be removed by boiling, adding salt or letting water stand in containers exposed to the air.


How will chloramines affect household plumbing, pipes and water heaters?


Chloramine causes rubber seals or parts such as gaskets or toilet flappers to degrade at a faster rate.  Signs degradation include small black flakes in water or plumbing fixtures.  It is advisable to inspect your toilet flapper once or twice a year for signs of deterioration.  Replacement parts are available at your hardware supply stores.


If you have installed a water purification system, you may also need to change filters more frequently.


To learn about Chloramination in California click here.



Robert Gorovenko

403 506 4260


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