January 13, 2016

Get Cash Rebates for water cisterns, septic upgrades and more!

The Regional District of Nanaimo is one of the most conservation-minded, progressive, local governments in Canada. 

Check their site regularly, as most years they offer a wealth of rebates and incentives for homeowners to reduce costs and their environmental footprint.

Septic system rebates, water sampling and testing, well protection, rainwater collection cisterns, etc.

Check out RDN Rebates on their site.

Tips for Controlling "Non-Point Source" Water Pollution . . .

When the winter rains hit, we are reminded big-time what falls from the sky seeps into the ground or eventually flows to the sea.  
Surface pollutants from a variety of sources (i.e. non-point source) can contaminate waterways and groundwater. Please make sure you are not part of the problem.

How Can I Be Part of the Solution?

1. Around your home:
  • reduce use of household hazardous products and use environmentally friendly alternatives. Here on Gabriola in BC, contact GIRO or  check out the BC Product Stewardship site and contact info. to find out how to safely dispose of hazardous products
  • check and repair fluid leaks from your vehicle
  • reduce or eliminate use of fertilizers and pesticides on your lawn and garden
  • water your lawn and garden sparingly
2. For septic-system users:
  • have your sewage system inspected and pumped out regularly
  • don't put solids or toxic chemicals down the drain
  • compost as much kitchen waste as possible
  • don't put heavy objects or vehicles on the septic field
3. For boaters:
  • don't release sewage in marinas, bays or inlets. Install a holding tank and use pump-out stations where available
  • use biodegradable products to clean your boat
  • keep motors well maintained to prevent fuel and lubricant leaks
4. Around your farm or ranch:
  • reduce or eliminate use of fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides. Follow instructions and provincial application guidelines carefully. Consider using natural pest control methods.
  • construct adequate manure storage facilities and follow manure spreading guidelines
  • prevent horses, alpacas and all livestock from access to streambanks and waterbodies. Supply and pump to troughs.
Source: BC Government, with updates from other provincial government sources.

October 21, 2014

Our efforts to reduce environmental impacts

At Withey's we recover customers’ germicidal UV (mercury) lamps, and e-waste and take them to our local recycling centre for safe-recycling through BC Product Stewardship Program. We also encourage the use of longer-lasting better quality filters and treatment systems to reduce landfill waste. We recycle all our shipping cardboard and packing materials and consolidate our suppliers and order in bulk supplies to save on shipping costs and greenhouse gases. We are huge proponents of water conservation and not using bottled water. Drink clean water from your tap! And our technicians operate fuel efficient/hybrid service vehicles.

We are making the leap!

With deep thanks to you, our valued customers over the many years, Withey’s Water business has grown to the point where we needed to make important organizational changes to continue providing excellent customer service and meet the future and growing needs of our hundreds of customers here on Gabriola and surrounding islands.
We are now an incorporated company and are excited to announce Gabriolan, Ms. Dianne Cohen has taken on the role of operations manager and technician.
Dianne will be working very closely with Ken Gurr, as our EOCP-certified water treatment systems specialist-technician, as well as a team of other qualified and trained personnel to help you with all your water treatment services.
We continue to offer you:
* --  professional sales, and regular maintenance service & supplies of water treatment equipment;
* – outstanding customer service and conscientious maintenance records and data-base tracking of your equipment service needs;
* – Gulf islands customized tips, advice and expertise on water treatment for well and rainwater sources, conservation and system design;
* – water sampling and site checks for VIHA potability requirements and home sales/transfers/periodic testing;
* – excellent dealer-customer warranty support of the most reputable equipment manufacturers in North America;
* – expanded referral and contract services for household plumbing repairs, rainwater collection system improvements, etc.

September 5, 2014

RDN WellSmart Program: $ for well tests and improvements

The RDN recently announced its WellSmart program offers of rebates for well owners! There are funds available to homeowner applicants for well protection upgrades and water quality testing. There are also free workshops scheduled too.

But apply asap for the program to get your rebates on well tests and improvements. There are a few hoops to jump through, but it's an excellent program with great resources, factsheets and support. See RDN WellSmart Program

June 23, 2014

Time for full-on water conservation mode

Coming off a fairly dry winter, and now with June sliding by and the lack of rain this month, we are likely heading for a long, hot, dry summer. Be careful with your water use and if you are on rainwater collection, have your gutters clean, bypass/diverters closed and be ready to collect all you can!

Here are a few pointers . . .
  • Do only full loads of laundry, and no multiple loads in one day.
  • Get a water-saving shower head -- e.g. Water-Pik that allows you to shut-off flow at head for soaping up.
  • Tell all your house guests the Gulf Islands toilet mantra: "if it's yellow, let it mellow . . ."
  • Let your grass "go native" in our natural dry season; it bounces back in the fall.
  • If you have a low-recovery well -- maybe this is the summer to finance and install a well-to-cistern-to-house system so you can slowly trickle fill a cistern to have a reservoir of water.
  • Water the tender flowers and veggies in the early morning or late evening.
  • Buy a well-watcher to monitor your well level if you've had a past history of it running dry.

December 16, 2013

Learn more about  groundwater on Gabriola

Thanks to our tax dollars, the RDN is working hard to learn more about Gabriola's groundwater -- quality, quantity, distribution and risks.  This is the first phase report, and it's a good read.


Hopefully with more data, the island will be able to come up with a good plan for how we manage for community/bulk water supply. 

Right now, due to some bad public policy, one bulkwater hauler has to supply from his own private wells only, and hauling from Nanaimo is an expensive option that is vulnerable to restrictions from another jurisdiction and the cost and inefficiency of bringing it over by ferry.  We need an on-island solution and this groundwater study will hopefully help with some answers.

How to change your filters . . .

Many of our customers asked for this.  

Top three problems people run into are: 
1) not depressurizing  the water lines to get all the water pressure off (i.e. turn off valve inlet and run a tap downstream until just a dribble); 
2) accidentally dumping the O-ring out when emptying the filter cartridge and not noticing; 
3) wrenching the filter housing on so tight it causes the o-ring to stretch and get sloppy, causing leaks.
Hope this helps you.

June 5, 2013

Old UV lamps & product stewardship

Rural areas are often sadly under-served when it comes to recovering and recycling used water treatment products like spent UV lamps, ballasts and filters . . .

Fortunately, Gabriola has a great recycling organization in GIRO, and for several years Withey's Water has been bundling all the used, expired UV lamps we replace on service calls and dropping them off at GIRO for safe storage and disposal  -- due to the mercury content of all germicidal UV lamps.

Now GIRO is officially registered with LampRecycle BC to provide this service.  It is likely that soon an eco-fee or other disposal donation amount will be applied, and we will either provide that  service on cost recovery for our customers and/or encourage everyone to bring their old UV lamps to GIRO themselves.

Old carbon and sediment filters have no recovery/reuse program in this part of the world. 
Our only advice here is to buy better quality filters, that work well and last longer (see some of my older posts re: choosing filters), look after your collection and storage systems so you change filters only when necessary, and consider using some reusable filters if you have an efficient way to pressure wash and clean them regularly and don't mind the hassle.

April 8, 2013

Spring roof cleaning 101

Time for a good cleaning: sweep off, clean the gutters and bypass from your cisterns
After pollen season . . . after a winter of moss and algae growth . . . cedar buds, fir needles and arbutus bark, it is time for a good roof and gutter clean. 

If you are hiring someone to do this, make sure of these 4 important criteria are met:

  1. Make sure your collection system is diverted and bypassed so wash-water, debris and any cleaning products used do not go into your cistern! It will foul your water and make it unusable.
  2. Ensure your contractor has WCB or other insurance coverage for injury. This is slippery and dangerous work
  3. Confirm they use BC WorkSafe practices for fall prevention.
  4. Make sure roof is rinsed thoroughly with clean water before putting your rain collection system back online to your cistern.
Take care and happy rain harvesting over the spring and summer. Be sure to divert first 10-20 gallons of rainfall after an extended dry period (week or more).

January 8, 2013

Be ready for colder temps . . .

If we are going to get sub-zero temperatures during our westcoast winters, January is usually the month. 

Watch the forecasts and be sure your water treatment equipment and pumphouse pipes etc. are protected from freezing.  

  • Tube-style pipe insulation, a few old blankets over pumps, filter housings and pressure tanks (remember to keep pump air intakes clear of covering), and ensure pumphouse has an insulated door, ceiling and walls.  This will help greatly reduce the chances of a freeze and crack. 
  •  For rainwater collection -- ensure your first rain diverter/bypass/ collection pipes that hold water are emptied and the bypass valves are left open so the pipes don't freeze if full of water.

August 28, 2012

Smelly, sulfur well water -- what to do

One of the most common well water quality complaints on the West Coast is dealing with smelly, rotten-egg water or sulphur water.

The telltale rotten-egg smell is almost always caused by H2S (hydrogen sulphide) -- a gas produced naturally and as a byproduct of bacteria (that is not a pathogenic strain) that "eats" sulfur.

Sometimes a homeowner may find it is worse in the late spring or late fall as ground water levels are falling/rising through strata that carries more sulphurous bearing rock. In other areas it is overwhelming and terrible year-round.

On Gabriola, there are degrees of intervention we employ based on how bad it is:

A) Intermittent , or with the seasons:
  • Use a good quality activated coconut carbon filter -- either carbon block or granular GAC; and plan on changing out every 4-8 weeks (for a normal-sized filter) or every 3 -6 months for a Big Blue 10" filter.
  •  If present more on the hot water than cold, the anode in the hot water tank is most likely contributing to the creation of H2S. Either swap out with an aluminum anode or cut off the old anode rod and put plug back in. IMPORTANT NOTE: this is commonly done by many people and plumbers in rural areas with H2S issues, but it voids your h/w tank warranty if it fails prematurely to its rated-life (rare). This is up to you!
  • Occasionally (once or twice per year) dose your h/w tank with plain ordinary household bleach (5-6% chlorine) by putting 1-3 cups in your filter housing and turning on a h/w tap for several minutes to draw the bleach into the h/w tank. Let it sit for 12 -24 hours then purge tank via drain valve or use up bleachy water in a load or two of hot-water laundry (e..g. rags and whites). Very effective if done after you have the anode removed.
  • Vent or have lots of fresh air in your bathroom when showering/bathing.
B) Chronic and powerful on hot and cold water lines:
  • Install an automatic backwashing Manganese Greensand filter -- but only if you have the well capacity (pump rates exceeding 5-7 gallons per minute) and reliable quantity to operate the filter system. A few tests and calculations are needed, as well as qualified installation.
  • Install a 1200 to 2400 gallon cistern and pump from well to cistern, so that water sprays in and aerates and offgases, then re-pressurize and pump to house service. The cistern should have a screened, critter and insect proof 4-6" bulkhead opening so that there is plenty of venting and air flow for off-gassing. Sediment and carbon filters should come afterwards.
  • Install an automatic backwashing activated carbon filter -- but it will need to be re-bedding with new carbon  every 4-6 years. Results can be mixed.

May 2, 2012

Pollen 2012 -- BIG YEAR FOR THE TREES!

The telltale warning on your vehicle . . . it's here!
But not so good for your rainwater collection system.  Hopefully, when you noticed the first few green dustings on your car windshield back in March, you remembered the golden rule of rainwater harvesting . . . "bypass or first-flush divert all ye rainwater collection during pollen season or be warned -- thou shalt experience the dire stinky, foul,  horrible mess of cistern water for many weeks afterwards!"

See my posting from March 7, 2011 for tips and advice on rainwater collection.

The pollen is now starting to trail off dramatically, so in about 2 weeks it'll be time to clean out your gutters, downspouts and get ready for capturing the final rains of spring before dry season hits.

If you were one of the unfortunates that ignored or otherwise missed bypassing/diverting your rain harvesting during pollen season and you now have a foul mess in your cisterns, you may be looking at dosing with chlorine or peroxide, recirculating with a hose to oxygenate; or ultimately, draining and cleaning; and having horrible water conditions until the pollen eventually breaks down with biological activity and runs out via usage and dilution with additional rains. Don't make the same mistake next year!

February 13, 2012

Troubleshooting: UV system is in alarm, beeping

There have been some past instances -- especially after power is restored after an outage or even just randomly -- when Sterilight or Trojan UV systems go into alarm and stay in alarm. 

The beeping is continuous and there are no LED numbers or letters displayed on the power supply readout. It is very rarely a problem with the UV lamp, it is more likely the power supply, but to be sure, try the following to confirm:

1) Unplug from power outlet and wait ten seconds. Plug in again while at the same time, pressing and holding the reset button. Hold button and wait for continuous beep and then let go of reset button. If LED displays "365" and stays lit, all is good. If not, then . . .

2) TURN OFF water supply and run a downstream tap to release all water pressure from UV.   Gently remove clip on lamp-hood connector, and disconnect lamp. Using a clean cloth or cotton gloves to be sure you don't touch UV glass with bare hands, slide out lamp about 1/2 way and confirm it is not blackened, wet or corroded (i.e. you have a leak inside the quartz sleeve), and connector pins are not broken. If all OK, reconnect and try reset again as in #1 above. If no luck and still in alarm . . . last try to rule out UV lamp as issue . . .

3) Slide lamp back in. If you have an expired lamp on hand (and we always advise you keep at least one on-hand for this reason, or a new spare), expose just the pin end of lamp through the folded end of the cardboard container and position so that you can plug it in to lamp connector. DO NOT expose eyes or skin to direct UV light. KEEP LAMP COVERED, wear UV protected sunglasses.  Plug into power and attempt reset on the old lamp (as described in #1 above). If lamp lights up, then your currently installed lamp is faulty, if not, then your power supply has failed.

Contact your local Viqua dealer/service person for help with replacement and warranty service. Depending on the age and serial number of your UV system, there may either be a full two-year warranty on the power supply (since late 2011), or a remaining five year, prorated warranty.

Final tip -- to help protect your UV power supply, do not put it on a circuit with a pump or other heavy-power-draw appliances; and use a good surge protector for the UV. When you get new power supply, you will need to re-sanitize your water lines with chlorine, and obviously until UV is operating again, your water is not potable.


January 13, 2012

Keeping aware of your treatment equipment

Don't be too lackadaisical about monitoring your water treatment equipment . . .

Sometimes we get calls from customers that accidentally notice that their UV system is out of order, in alarm, or the filters haven't been changed for eons, or the softener hasn't had salt added for a year (so that's why there's iron staining on the new sinks!).

While we carefully database and notify all our customers for when their UV lamps are due, or other major service work is or intervals are required (sleeve cleaning, filter changes), it is important for customers to take some ownership over the safety of their own water, and set-up a system of regular periodic checks of their water treatment system.

TIP:  Put it on the calendar every month to check on things. (This is especially important if your treatment equipment is in an outbuilding or tucked into a corner of your crawlspace, garage or basement.)  If a power outtage occurs, write yourself a post-it note to check, when the power comes back on, that the UV and other treatment equipment has restarted and is functioning normally.

December 1, 2011

Power out -- checking your UV when Hydro is restored . . .

As the winter winds doth blow, so too come inevitable power outtages on the BC coast.

It is always good practice to refrain from using your taps (the residual pressure in your water system pressure tank), when there is no power. This is especially important when you have any history or suspicions that your water is not safe without UV treatment (i.e. all rainwater systems; past positive e-coli tests from your well water).

Three pointers to follow when your power comes back on:

1) Be sure to check to make sure your UV is indeed powered up and not in alarm (beeping or wailing). It may need to be reset (by unplugging for 10 seconds and/or pressing reset button while plugging back in). If this doesn't help, sadly the power cut may have caused your power supply/ballast to fail completely. We strongly advise you put your UV on a dedicated outlet (not sharing an outlet/circuit with a jet pump or centra-vac, etc), and use a good quality surge protector. Much more rarely, a power outtage could cause the lamp too blow, but it will typically show signs of "blackout" at the ends if this is the case.

2) Pour about 1/2 - 1 cup of regular household bleach/chlorine 5.25 - 6 % (unscented, NO fibreguard ) in your filter housing closest to the UV and draw water to all your water lines -- sinks, toilets, showers, etc. -- by running the water for a minute or two at all fixtures and taps. Leave for 20-30 minutes and then flush lines clear of all chlorine odour. Important: if you have an RO system, you will want make sure to shut-off inlet to RO before you use this much chlorine as it will do damage to your system's membrane.

3) If this does not seem practical and you are quite sure you didn't use lots of water at all the taps during the power outtage, at the very, very least, when the power comes back on and you know your UV is working fine, draw water to all your water lines -- sinks, toilets, showers, etc. -- flushing the waterlines fully open for a minute or two at all fixtures and taps.