Local resident Vicki Veldhuyzen Van Zanten (five internet points to anyone who can say that ten times fast) of Onoway, Alberta, told CTV that on Tuesday, her neighbor called and told her that the tap water was pink. Not long after, Van Zanten's daughter turned on the tap and found that a purplish liquid was coming out.
The purple turned to pink, and the town's Facebook page revealed that the phenomenon was repeating itself all across the little town of roughly 1,000 residents.
So what caused the change? Alien bacteria? Brainwashing fluid? Psychomagnotheric slime produced by the Cult of Gozer? None of that, according to Onoway mayor Dale Krasnow. The town washes the filters at its water-treatment plant with a chemical called potassium permanganate, which can turn water pink in large quantities.
A stuck valve let the compound leak into the drinking water. Krasnow insisted that there was no danger to the public, but Onoway has nonetheless drained its reservoir to flush the chemical out.
"The reservoir was drained, however some of the chemical still made it into the distribution system," Krasnow said in a statement. "While it is alarming to see pink water coming from your taps, potassium permanganate is used in normal treatment processes to help remove iron and manganese and residents were never at risk."
"Could the town have done a better job of communicating what was going on yesterday to our community? Absolutely, without a doubt," Krasnow said in a Facebook post. "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.
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Alberta Health Services spokeswoman Shannon Evans said the water is safe to drink, but "individuals with sensitive skin may wish to use an alternate source of water for bathing, at this time, due to small but potential risk for temporary skin irritation."
Van Zanten said she was not going to drink the water for a while, regardless of what the mayor's office says. Her reason? "[The water] was very, very pink."
This sounds like wisdom on Van Zanten's part. While potassium permanganate diluted with water is extensively used as an antiseptic, water-treatment additive, and flame retardant, it can be quite dangerous in large doses. it can stain and burn skin on contact. Ingestion can cause throat burning, abdominal pain, and nausea, with a dose of 10 grams enough to kill, according to a 1990 paper. If it comes in contact with simple alcohols, it explodes, and we all know about the stereotypes of Canadians and drinking.