EPCOR employs army of home water sniffers to monitor Edmonton’s water quality

Susan Godwin has an unusual side gig. She’s been a water sniffer for EPCOR for the last seven years.

“If you’ve got a nose, and you got a glass, and you’ve got a tap, then you can do it,” she said.

She’s one of 300 people across the city who takes a whiff of the water coming out of Edmonton taps daily, and reports back to the utility provider.

“I take a couple of little sniffs, not big sniffs, just little sniffs, and if I smell anything unusual that shouldn’t be in the water like chlorine, mustiness, garbage, feces, anything that shouldn’t be there, and then I would record it.”

EPCOR says the program, which runs from Family Day to the end of May, goes back more than two decades.

“It was originally set up as a way to respond to changes in odor that occur in tap water, particularly during spring runoff,” said Jeff Charrois, EPCOR water analytical operations and process development manager.

“Which is our most challenging treatment time because of the rapidly changing river conditions.”

The sniffers test the hot and cold water in their homes every day. Godwin says she does it first thing in the morning, and she fills out a survey which goes back to EPCOR. The company compensates her in gift cards for the yearly task.

“So far, I’ve received a $30 Amazon gift certificate, and at the end, I’ll get a $20 gift certificate,” she said.

“It’s $50 for about three minutes of work for three months. Three minutes of work per day for three months.”

Charrois says the program is the only one of its kind.

“The proactive nature of our program gives us a leg up in terms of really responding from a treatment perspective to ensure we’re neutralizing odors and responding as quickly as possible,” he said.

In addition to the home sniffers, EPCOR has 25-30 lab workers working full time to ensure Edmonton has safe, good smelling water.

“The home sniffers are certainly out there in the distribution system, and in the lab our team of water quality specialists are smelling the water that comes through different stages of treatment, so we’re really trying to capture things right from the river right to the tap,” Charrois said.

If you’re interested in becoming a water sniffer, Charrois said EPCOR recruits every year through social media.

“If people are interested, at the beginning of the year, keep your eyes open for the, on the EPCOR Facebook page, and you can sign up and become a home sniffer.”

With files from CTV News Edmonton’s Amanda Anderson.

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