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Frequently Asked Questions - Water and Waste Water


Waste Water

Is my tap water safe to drink?

Your tap water is safe to drink. The Region’s water quality meets the Ontario Drinking Water Standards that were set by the Ministry of the Environment. Water quality is monitored on a continuous basis throughout the water treatment plants and distribution systems.

The Ministry of the Environment and the Medical Officer of Health also monitor the results for any potential problems.

Where can I find information about my water quality?

Water quality information is summarized in our Annual Water Quality Report.

Hard copies of the reports can also be obtained through the Region of Durham’s Works Department, Technical Support Division at 1-905-668-7711 or 1-800-372-1102.

Where can I find more information regarding sodium in my drinking water?

View Facts About… Sodium in Drinking Water

Why is chlorine added to the drinking water?

Chlorine is added as a disinfectant to ensure the drinking water is safe. Ontario Regulations require chlorine to be continuously added at all of the water treatment plants. Chlorine residuals are monitored continuously, 24 hours/day, 365 days of the year at the water treatment plants and throughout the distribution systems.

I find the chlorine smell from my water strong. Can you turn down the chlorine?

Chlorine is added at the water treatment plant to ensure proper disinfection has occurred before the water leaves the plant. If the chlorine tastes strong in your drinking water, it is best to leave a fresh jug of water in the fridge with a small air space and a loose fitting lid. After six hours the chlorine will have evaporated.

What chemicals are added to water for the treatment process?

Treatment chemicals are added on a continuous basis. Aluminum sulphate or poly aluminum chloride is added as a treatment coagulant, chlorine is added as a disinfectant, sodium bisulfite is added to adjust the chlorine residual, sulphuric acid is added to lower the natural pH of the water from Lake Ontario, fluoride is added at some water plants for dental purposes and sodium silicate is added in some groundwater systems to reduce iron levels.

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What is my water hardness?

Lake Ontario water has a hardness of approximately 124 mg/L expressed as calcium carbonate (CaCO3) or 8.7 Grains/ Imperial gallon. Groundwater throughout Durham ranges from approximately 186 mg/L (CaCO3) or 13.0 Grains/ Imperial gallon to 345 mg/L (CaCO3) or 24.2 Grains/ Imperial gallon.

Is there fluoride in my water and if so, how much?

If you live in Pickering, Ajax, Whitby, Brooklin, Oshawa or Courtice, there is fluoride in your water at a concentration between approximately 0.5 to 0.8 mg/L. For more information from the Region's Health Department see Facts about fluoride.

My water has an earthy, musty odour. Is it safe to drink?

The presence of naturally occurring algae, and higher water temperatures in Lake Ontario, can cause a noticeable earthy, musty taste and odour. Testing confirms that the water quality continues to be safe to drink during these taste and odour events. A slice of lemon or lime in the water can improve the taste and smell.

Why does my water look cloudy/grey?

Cloudy water is caused by tiny air bubbles in the water similar to the gas bubbles in carbonated soft drinks. After a while, the bubbles rise to the top and are gone. This type of cloudiness occurs more often in the winter, when the drinking water is colder.

Why was there a representative selling water testing and treatment equipment at my door?

Durham staff generally do not go door to door unannounced. The Region has received numerous complaints related to agressive door-to-door marketing and sales associates misrepresenting themselves as Durham Region staff. Durham Region staff will always carry with them a photo ID card with the Durham Region logo printed on it. We do not recommend allowing persons without this identification into your home to test your water. If you wish to report the actions of these companies please call the Consumer Service Bureau at 1-800-889-9768.

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Should I have a home treatment device?

Household treatment devices are not required. Improper usage or maintenance of a home treatment device can result in drinking water with harmful chemicals or bacteria levels. If you choose to use a home treatment device ensure you purchase an National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) approved device and follow all manufacturer recommendations.

Is tritium a concern in my drinking water?

Samples are collected and analysed for tritium 7 days/week, 365 days of the year at all the Lake Ontario water supply plants. The concentrations found are close to the background levels found in Lake Ontario which are 10 Bq/L. The Ontario Drinking Water Objective for tritium is 7,000 Bq/L.

I have seen work crews cleaning water mains and the water they flush out looks terrible. How can the water be safe if the pipes are so dirty?

Almost all water pipes have a thin film of rust on the inside. Build up of this material may cause problems such as reduced flow, loss of pressure and/or using up the chlorine residual in the water as it travels through the pipe. Durham has a regular program of flushing and cleaning the distribution pipes. When all of the material is removed from the walls of several kilometres of pipe and flushed out of a fire hydrant all at once, it looks worse than it really is. If you watch the work crew do this, you will notice the water clears up rather quickly. If you are experiencing rusty coloured water, let your water run for 10-20 minutes. If it does not clear in this time, contact your local Regional Works Department Depot.

My shut off valve or pipe coming into the house is leaking. Will you send someone to repair it?

The internal shut off valve belongs to the homeowner. The Region of Durham is responsible for the water meter itself (not the pipes or valves before or after it) and the external shut off valve (a round metal valve flush with the ground usually located in the front of the property).

How do I arrange to have the water shut off from the outside? Why is there a charge?  

Call your the Region of Durham Works Department depot nearest you. It is preferable that you book at least 24 hours in advance to guarantee your time slot. A service truck must be sent out with the appropriate tools and skilled workers to accommodate your request.

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The top is off my curb stop or it has popped up. Will it cause problems with my water supply? Is there a charge to fix it?

Although it does not affect the water itself, it should be reported so that it may be repaired at the earliest possible time that a crew will be available. The Region does not charge the homeowner if the curb stop is worn out. It is advisable to keep it exposed and in working condition in case of emergency. Remember to call for locates before digging. Only Region personnel are authorized to operate that valve. Contact your Region of Durham Works Department depot.

I have lower water pressure than normal. Why?

This could be caused by a main break in your neighbourhood, which could disrupt the water pressure. It could also be the valve entering your home that has not been opened all the way. In either case, you should contact your closest Region of Durham Works Department depot.

How deep is the water service to my house?

The depth of the service varies. The minimum is a depth of 1.8 metres, which protects the service from freezing.

I want to dig some fence post holes in my yard. Will the Region locate my water service for free?

Yes. The Region will locate your water service at no charge. Contact you’re the Region of Durham Works Department depot nearest you to make an appointment before you dig.

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Waste Water

There is a rotten egg (hydrogen sulphide) odour coming from my bathroom sink or floor drain in my basement. Why?

In many cases, the odour is caused from smells that come up from the trap below the drain when the water runs through it. It is a result of a trap that has dried out (water should always be present in the trap), causing anaerobic bacteria to produce hydrogen sulphide or a "rotten egg" smell. It can reoccur frequently if the trap is shallow, as shallow traps tend to dry out easily.

If you detect a rotten egg odour coming from your sink or basement floor drain, try cleaning the trap with hot water, baking soda and vinegar. If the odour persists, try pouring household bleach down the drain. In extreme cases, after trying the above noted options, a commercial drain cleaner may be required to solve the problem. Always use these products as directed by the manufacturer.

I’ve been told to call you to have my water lines located. Do you also locate our waste water sewer?

Yes. The Region of Durham has locaters at each depot location for the appropriate area. We locate water pipes on public property only, as well as the service box or external shut off valve for private property. Any other locates should be done through private companies. Contact your local closest Region of Durham Works Department depot.

Who is responsible for what portion of the waste water sewer?

In a residential home the region will clean the sewer lateral from the clean-out in the house (if available) to the street if deemed necessary. If required the region will repair the house lateral up to only as far as to within one meter of the closest foundation wall to the street.

Where would I find my waste water sewer clean-out?

The clean-out which is usually a 4” cap (not a perforated drain) is in most cases located at the front wall of the house or near the water meter and is in the floor or at floor level.

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