No quick fix for THMs: CAO

Ashley Thompson
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Hantsport council still exploring options to reduce harmful levels

Martin Kehoe stands in the processing room of the Town of Hantsport’s Water Treatment Facility. (Ashley Thompson photo)

Hantsport’s council is having no luck finding an easy answer to the town’s drinking water dilemma.

These things take time, says Hansport’s CAO Jeff Lawrence.

The town belongs to a handful of municipalities that must reduce the levels of trihalomethanes (THMs) in its public drinking supply to adhere to guidelines set by Health Canada, and regulations enforced by Nova Scotia Environment.

As it stands, Lawrence says Hantsport’s water treatment plant, which also serves portions of Kings County bordering Hantsport and Glooscap First Nation, is a state of the art facility when it comes to ensuring the water is free of viruses and bacteria.

And, he says, it’s greener than most water treatment facilities.

“We have a lot less wastewater than the traditional plant,” said Lawrence, during a 40-minute tour of the Bishopville plant.

“It’s using filtration instead of chemicals to purify the water.”

That may soon change.

Town staff hired CBCL Ltd. to determine if nanofiltrationan enhanced filtration method that would demand more electricity and create more wastewater — or coagulation a solution that would involve using more chemicals to purify the water — will significantly reduce the level of THMs in the drinking supply.

“When you look at the plant, you understand the complexity of it,” said Lawrence, noting that nanofiltration would generate more wastewater than the facility’s existing backwash ponds can contain.

“It’s not as simple as flicking a switch or adjusting a valve.”

CBCL is expected to submit a report detailing the pros and cons of both proposed solutions to the Town of Hantsport’s staff by Sept. 30. The necessary upgrades could cost between $500,000 to $1.5 million. 

Martin Kehoe, a water treatment operator who has been working at the plant since 2006, says he feels his hands are essentially tied on the THMs issue until the upgrades are made. 

“It’s not as simple as flicking a switch or adjusting a valve.” CAO Jeff Lawrence

“We’re helpless right now. We can’t do anything about it right here, right now at the plant,” said Kehoe, who conducts regular quality assurance tests on the water treated at the facility.

“As an operator you never want to know that something is there… you want to see things solved right away and you want things (to be) perfect.”

THMs are chemical compounds formed when chlorine reacts with organic matter, such as leaves, in water.

Kehoe said the level of THMs found in the treated water in Hantsport differs according to the season.

Lori Errington, a communications advisor for Nova Scotia Environment, said Hantsport is one of about six to eight of the 55 municipalities in the province finding substandard levels of THMs in drinking water.

Nova Scotia Environment’s website states that it is believed overexposure to THMs could potentially lead to health complications.

“There is concern among experts in Canada that THMs may pose a risk in the development of cancer. And though there is presently insufficient evidence to establish a causal relationship, some studies report an association between THMs and adverse birth outcomes,” the website explains.

 “The easiest way to reduce or eliminate THMs in drinking water is to use a water pitcher with a carbon filter, install a tap-mounted carbon filter, or to use bottled water.”

Lawrence says he gets phone calls about three or four times a month from citizens requesting an update on the THMs situation in Hantsport.

He says he is willing to take residents on tours of the water treatment facility if they are interested in learning more about the treatment process.

For more information about THMs, visit the Nova Scotia Environment’s website at

Organizations: Nova Scotia Environment, Hantsport council, Health Canada CBCL

Geographic location: Hantsport, Kings, Bishopville Canada

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Recent comments

  • Jon
    August 17, 2011 - 05:54

    I'm confused. The article says that reducing THM's at the plant is very complicated but then goes on to say all I have to do to reduce it in my house is just use a water pitcher with a carbon filter. If it's so easy for me to reduce it then why is it so hard for the plant?