It would be considered very unusual to turn on your faucet and see a stream of hot pink water come rushing out, but for one small town in Alberta, Canada this perplexing circumstance has become a reality. Canadian residents of Onoway, a town just northwest of Edmonton say that they were shocked to see “bright pink” water come pouring out of their taps.
Vicki Veldhuyzen Van Zanten of Onoway said that one of her neighbors had called to ask if her water was pink. At the time, Veldhuyzen Van Zanten’s water hadn’t turned pink yet. But, a short time later, her daughter discovered that the water coming from their bathroom faucet was a purple hue. Eventually, Veldhuyzen Van Zanten said that her water too changed over to a definite bright pink shade.
After posting on a town Facebook page, she noted hundreds of other residents were experiencing the same bizarre event.
Mayor Dale Krasnow posted a message to the website addressing the townspeople’s concerns, stating that they were safe and not at any risk. According to Krasnow, town workers at the water treatment plant were doing their weekly washing of the filters using potassium permanganate, which turns water pink when used in large quantities.
The mayor said it appeared that a valve had gotten stuck somewhere, allowing the compound to enter the sump reservoir and make its way into the local water supply. The town has since drained the reservoir and flushed the distribution system.
Mayor Krasnow told Chemistry World, “There was just a trace, a backwash, from a valve that didn’t close soon enough. All the lines are flushed, and everyone has good, clear water again.”
In his statement on the town’s Facebook page, Krasnow conceded that they should have been more forthcoming with their constituents about the situation. “Could the town have done a better job of communicating what was going on yesterday to our community? Absolutely, without a doubt.”
Krasnow went on to say, “And we do apologize for that. This is a situation we can certainly learn from and develop a strategy for better response and communication should we ever face the same or similar situation in the future.”
Potassium permanganate is used in water treatment to remove iron and hydrogen sulfide. According to the World Health Organization, the compound can cause skin irritations and cause exposed skin to be stained brown.
Mayor Krasnow says that Alberta Environment officials would be coming to Onoway to review their water treatment system to investigate the pink water incident and see what needs correcting to prevent it from happening again.
Despite the government’s assurances that the water was safe, Ms. Veldhuysen Van Zaten said she refrained from drinking the water or using it to cook, and instead choose to heat up some leftovers for dinner that night. Surely, many other citizens were not terribly swayed by the promise of the pink water’s safety.
It is rather ironic that pink water is considered safe when rainwater is so often considered “criminal.”